Five Minutes with Carmen Haid of Atelier Mayer

Words by
Melanie Rickey & Carmen Haid

13th September 2023

In the wake of the Moroccan earthquake, Carmen Haid of Atelier Mayer talks to SPHERE about how she is supporting the country, the renaissance in Moroccan creativity, and her love for Marrakech.   

Carmen Haid first set foot in Morocco at the age of 20. Later, while working as the press attaché for Monsieur Saint Laurent in London and Paris, she discovered his stunning home and gardens in Marrakech, and a love affair was born.

After shifting her career to vintage curation and resale with Atelier Mayer in the noughties - long before it became a multi-million dollar thing - she sold the fashion business in 2015, and last year re-launched Atelier Mayer as an expression of Moroccan craft told through her passion for monochrome and Modernist interiors.

Atelier Mayer's vision is expressed throughout Carmen's exquisite house, Kasbah Tameslohte. This solar run, zero waste villa in the desert 20 miles from Marrakech, is a few miles from the village of Tameslohte, which was devastated in the earthquake last Friday.

The Atelier Mayer vision is all-encompassing, through dining, furniture, one-of-a-kind objet d’art for the home, and collaborations with local artists. These include the iconic designer Romeo Gigli who lives in Marrakech, emerging Moroccan artist and architect Idriss Karnachi, and a workshop of crafts women in Marrakech, who create Atelier Mayer ceramics and rugs.

Currently preparing The Warehouse x Atelier Mayer collaboration at Mandarin Oriental in Marrakech, which launches October 28th, Carmen is currently focussing her efforts on helping to rebuild her neighbourhood following the Moroccan earthquake.

Carmen Haid of Atelier Mayer
The Atelier Mayer HQ is close to the village of Tamelohte, 15 miles south of Marrakech, which was damaged by the Moroccan quake

Five Minutes with Carmen Haid of Atelier Mayer

I was in my home Kasbah Tameslohte with friends when the earthquake struck… it felt like a freight train running through the living room. We quickly realised what was happening and got to safety. We were cut off from all communications. It was 15 hours before we began to understand the full consequences of the disaster.

Marrakech was in the centre of the news and suffered many deaths and building collapses… but it is the outlying areas of the Atlas mountains ninety minutes away that suffered the worst of the devastation and loss of life. Members of my team here lost their home, and their neighbours lost their lives. It is so tragic and we are doing all we can to rebuild and help survivors.

Vanessa Branson's Eve Branson Foundation has created a response fund. I've created a fund to help rebuild my local villageStudio KO started a fund to support basic needs for those displaced by the quake and Red Crescent is on the ground in the worst hit areas. Our prayers go to all of those who lost their lives and homes. It is so easy to take our safety for granted – this earthquake changed our perspective in seconds. We were lucky.

Carmen Haid of Atelier Mayer
Carmen Haid of Atelier Mayer

We have just had three days of National Mourning… His Majesty King Mohammed VI wants us to carry on to the best of our abilities, and to support the economy while the help is given to those in need and people can be laid to rest. Marrakech is already rebuilding, the souk is open and business is back to normal in town. The best one can do to support is come and visit. 

The essence of Atelier Mayer is... a celebration of local Moroccan craft. The number of artists here is incredible and Marrakech is currently experiencing a cultural renaissance which is thrilling. 

My source of creativity comes from my late grandmother Klaudia Mayer… She was an Austrian haute couture seamstress who established her atelier in 1927 during the Viennese Secession. It was a  movement formed by artists, sculptors, ceramicists and architects including Josef Hoffman, Egon Schiele and Gustav Klimt. It was a very poignant time for Austrian creativity. I don’t know if there have been many movements as important. It’s a very particular aesthetic. Very avant garde designs for the time, and super relevant today.

Carmen Haid of Atelier Mayer
Atelier Mayer's designs are crafted by Moroccan artisans

My design inspiration… is the work of Wiener Werkstätte (or Vienna Workshop) which was co-founded by Josef Hoffman and Koloman Moser in 1903. Its geometric forms were a radical change from the floral patterns of the time. They made ceramics, furniture, textiles, glass. It laid the foundations for modernism, and together their work became, as we say Gesamtkunstwerk (or a total work of art.)

Carmen Haid of Atelier Mayer
Atelier Mayer tablewear and ceramics are made by local craftswomen

The craftsmen, creatives and ateliers I return to time after time include… BENI rugs, ceramics from LRNCE, photographer Karim Chater of Style Beldi, the rug making studio run by Sana Benzaitar, the incredible Romeo Gigli who is about to launch his own riad, Casa Romeo, in Marrakech and my talented friend, the collage artist and architect Idriss Karnachi. I also work with Botanika Marrakech, and have created a collection of home fragrances with them which are becoming the new signature scent of Mandarin Oriental Marrakech.

Carmen Haid of Atelier Mayer
The office at Carmen's home, Kasbah Tameslohte, pays homage to her love of Weiner Werkstätte (Vienna Workshop) and features rare Josef Hoffman chairs

My first independent commission since relaunching Atelier Mayer is… The Warehouse at Mandarin Oriental which launches October 28th, the team there have given me carte blanche to transform a huge space at the hotel into an art space with a curation of local artisans and space with consideration to architecture and materials. It is all about how to repurpose existing spaces and design.

Carmen Haid of Atelier Mayer
Kasbah Tameslohte

My most treasured possession is.. a ring given to me by Monsieur Saint Laurent. There is a French tradition on Saint Catherine’s Day that if you are under 25, unmarried, and work for a haute couture house, you are given a present – I love and wear the ring gifted to me by Monsieur Saint Laurent to this day. 

In Marrkaech I love to eat out at…  Plus 61 , Amandine, Berber Lodge, Riad Mena, Riad El Fenn, Sahbi Sahbi, and in my own home. 

Carmen Haid of Atelier Mayer
Kasbah Tameslohte serves as a showcase for the Moroccan craft, from rugs to tablewear, furniture, ceramics and lighting sold through Atelier Mayer

The last book I loved is…  Becoming Supernatural by Dr Joe Dispenza

The next question on my mind is… how as a society can we continue to live the way we are, without totally destroying our planet.

Atelier Mayer

Kasbah Tameslohte

Support the British Red Cross Morocco Earthquake Appeal