Interview: Sandra van Aanholt

Sandra van Aanholt, founder of The Souks, is the perfect example of how to turn your passion into a business. We chatted with Sandra about her love for the Moroccan culture, her travels, and her favorite flea market finds. The Souks offers a great selection of quality handmade products from Morocco. Each collection is carefully curated, consists of unique designs along with one of a kind vintage pieces. The philosophy of The Souks is to support small entrepreneurs. Sandra’s frequent visits to Morocco help her do just that- building strong business relationships with local businesses.

How did the idea for The Souks surface?

While on holiday four years ago, I saw some amazing pillows during my desert trip. I asked the salesman if I could buy some of them, but he said no. I hunted for some just like those and found them from another merchant. Now I sell these pillows and other vintage items, each with a story.

What do you love most about living and working in Morocco?

The way of living is what attracts me most. In Amsterdam, everybody is so busy going somewhere and doing something all the time.  Relaxing at home on the weekend instead of attending a festival is considered boring. Life in Amsterdam offers more variety, though. For example, one can buy coffee on every corner with four different kinds of milk in it. But in Morocco, the only choice is one type of milk (in nous nous coffee). What I am trying to say is, life is much simpler in Morocco.

While Moroccan life is simpler, it’s not without its challenges. Lots of people ask me, “How is it to be a woman working in Morocco?” I’m never afraid walking the streets by myself, as it feels like I’m home there. However, things can seem hectic to some when they enter the medina for the first time. If you don’t know your way around, it’s difficult to maneuver at first. But if you keep going, you’ll always find something new around the corner.

Also, I love the smell of fresh herbs, fruits and spices in the Moroccan air. I love how friendly and welcoming the people are – I always feel welcome.

Can you tell us about a recent market trip that left you feeling inspired?

I always feel inspired but finding some light-colored Berber pillows is what I love the most. It’s very hard to find them. Also, the Beni Ourain rugs are getting more and more difficult to find, as there are a lot of fake versions on the market. You might not realize it when you buy it, but after washing, the colors will fade. So, if I find a very soft tone grey authentic Beni rug, I am very happy!

What is your dream flea market destination?

IJ-Hallen market in Amsterdam is great. Also, at King’s Day, people sell their old stuff on the streets in Amsterdam. I always go there.

Any favorite travel or market finds?

As I travel a lot, I cannot choose a favorite. I’ve got an art gallery poster from Paris and art from Berlin. A huge leather giraffe from Morocco and a ceramic panda from Spain are looking at me right now on my desk in Amsterdam. I love collecting fabrics, so I’ve got a shelf full of vintage fabrics, including some pillow covers from a small town in northern Vietnam.