Fifth generation balgha maker Souheil Fitouri is proudly preserving Tunisia’s heritage while protecting your feet. He learned to craft the classic Tunisian slipper from his father, master balgha maker of the Tunis medina. Today, he works with designers (such as Anissa Aida) to adapt traditional footwear to contemporary fashion. In December 2016, we met Souheil at his atelier in the medina of Tunis and admired his talents as well as the architectural details of the souk.
What makes your balghas, or Tunisian slippers, unique?
My work is done with passion and belief in my skills – this is the power of 100% handmade craftsmanship.
What inspired you to start your business?
I dropped out of school at a very young age. I spent my childhood playing and working with my father, who was “Amine el Balgha,” the master of all the balgha makers in the medina of Tunis. I grew up learning all the techniques from him, as he had from his father. So I decided to become a balgha maker. Now, as a fifth generation balgha maker who exports balgha, preserves heritage, protects people’s feet, and creates jobs for young artisans, I can say I am a proud balgha maker.
What is your design ethos?
I was inspired to work with designers in order to create “modern” balgha and shoes that satisfy the modern needs. The work was very hard in the beginning, but with determination, hope, and faith, the combination of modern and traditional styles was a success. Today, I export my balgha to many European countries and employ many young balgha artisans.
What does Tunisia mean to you?
Hope and belief.
Where is your favorite place to visit in Tunisia?
The medina of Tunis and Carthage – they have many historic monuments and cultural heritage that are part of Tunisia.
All photos by soukra.co.