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Interview with Nejib Bel Hadj of Tilli Tanit

Textile designer Nejib Bel Hadj, founded Tilli Tanit in his home town, the coastal city of Mahdia. His team is made up of talented women working on all parts of the business, from embroidery and artistic development, to management and marketing.

What is the meaning behind the name Tilli Tanit?
Tilli Tanit is inspired by the civilizations that have left significant marks, both tangible and intangible, in Tunisia. This heritage is preserved by women across Tunisia through embroidery. Tilli is the berber word for shadow, and Tanit is the Phoenician goddess of Carthage. The name Tilli Tanit, the heritage of Tunisia, is found embroidered on each textile creation.

Tilli Tanit Team

The Tilli Tanit Team, Nejib, Rachida, Zahra, Ilhem, Souad, Fatma, Cyrine (Image: Tilli Tanit)

Who is Tilli Tanit?
For us, it is important to celebrate the embroiderers who are well paid and empowered. They preserve this savoir-faire by sharing it with a younger generation of women. There is Zahra Belhadj, marketing and management; Rania Larra, artistic development and quality control; Rachida Safaxi, head of embroidery workshop and embroiders. The embroiderers who are married but don’t have children see the young embroiderers as their children. Fatma Soula works with six “children.” Ahlem Elgoul works with two “children.” Wahida Ben Othmane works with three “children.” And Ilhem Salah works with 2 “children” who are from Iraq.

What is design for you?
It’s a creative profession that allows us to offer a need to decorate the home with beauty while having a social, environmental and cultural impact.

What is your design process?
The design process stems from the goal of uniting craftsmanship (embroidery and stitching) with industrial technique (weaving), and highlighting the ancestral savoir-faire in a simple and refined style, to create products that are accessibly priced and respect human beings and the environment.

Tilli Tanit Embroidery

Ilhem embroidering (Image: Tilli Tanit)

What positive impact do you have in shaping Tunisia?
My impact on Tunisia is to promote our heritage and culture through manual embroidery and the work of women. This work is also a message to a younger generation to invest in Tunisia and protect its heritage.

What does Tunisia mean to you?
For me, Tunisia is my identity. My roots. My inspiration.


Mahdia (Image: Tilli Tanit)

Where is your favorite place to vacation in Tunisia?
Mahdia is my ideal place for vacation. You find everything here – a town that has so much charm, a beautiful ocean, living crafts, and a chill lifestyle.

What spots do you love in Tunisia?
Dar El Jeld in the medina of Tunis, for trying new takes on Tunisian dishes. Dar Bel Hadj restaurant, also in the medina, is a delicious restaurant for authentic Tunisian cuisine. I also like to go to the bar Au Bon Vieux Temps in La Marsa.

Who is a Tunisian you admire?
Leila Menchari, the window designer for Hermès, and Azzedine Alaïa, the haute couture designer.


Mahdia lies on a rocky peninsula (Image: Tilli Tanit)

What do you wish the world knew about Tunisia?
It is a small country with beautiful diversity, where we smile and live well. In one week, you can discover the four seasons.

November 2020


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