No matter what you think of Israel or Palestine, there can be little doubt that Palestinians have been living a miserable existence for almost a century. Here’s how Palestinian fashion is protecting an ancient culture and people
By Chiara Spagnoli Gabardi
Living in one of the world’s most oppressed nations is tough.
For several decades now, Palestinian land, culture and style have all been under grave threat by Israeli oppression and occupation. But the Palestinians are tough people.
Despite constant attacks, electricity and water cuts, Palestinians continue to create. There’s a thriving olive oil and citrus industry, and there are even fashion designers there, too.
Whether it’s by using traditional embroidery and weaving techniques, or simply by making a statement on the catwalk, fashion has an incredible power to conserve cultural traditions and to confirm the existence of a people on the verge of disappearance. You could say: the needle and thread are mightier than the sword!
Here below are 5 Palestinian fashion brands that are fighting back from the destruction of their culture. By supporting them, you’re supporting the Palestinian people, too.
First two images by Dar Noora
7 Palestinian Fashion Brands To Support
We couldn’t talk about Palestinian fashion brands without mentioning the Kufiya. What once was used to protect from sunburn and sand has become a symbol of Palestinian nationalism. The eye-catching fabric of the black and white checked scarf known as a Kufiya first gained influence as a symbol of the Palestinian struggle against oppression when Yasser Arafat, the late Palestinian leader and icon of the resistance, wore it. In fact, he was hardly ever pictured without his trademark headscarf. And he also offered a Kufiya, (also spelled ‘Keffiyeh’) to all his distinguished visitors.
Unfortunately, today the symbol of Palestinian identity is largely cheaply made from tatty fabric and imported from China. But there is at least one factory, owned by the Hirbawi brothers from Hebron, that still makes the traditional Bedouin scarf. They use traditional fabrics and weaving methods.
With growing international demand for the Kufiya, the brothers have broken away from the usual black and white pattern. They now offer different colours in their weaving repertoire. And this has made the scarves more popular than ever! In fact, you can even see them being worn by celebrities like Cameron Diaz and Selena Gomez.
It’s a smart purchase, too. Not only can the Kufiya be used as a scarf, but it can also be fashioned into a tunic, reworked as a shoulder bag or transformed into a sarong.
This Palestinian-born designer uses fashion to promulgate the craftsmanship of his native land. Currently based in Rome, he blends the colours of his country of origin with a Renaissance twist from the land which adopted him. The result? A bridge between cultures and countries through his evening gowns, cocktail dresses and tailored suits.
Using natural fabrics including silk chiffon, crepe and georgette, Jamal Taslaq Couture is one of the most famous Palestinian fashion brands. In fact, Jamal has dressed celebrities such as Sharon Stone, Ornella Muti, Marta Marzotto and the aristocracy of the Arab world. Taslaq is especially proud of dressing Queen Rania of Jordan. But he hasn’t let celebrity override one of his key goal: to promote freedom for Palestine.
He has draped the Palestinian flag on his catwalks to remind the world of their plight, and he presented one of his collections at the United Nations to represent the Palestinian art of embroidery.
3. Dar Noora
This is another Palestinian fashion brand that focuses on embroidery and beautiful textiles.
Founder Noora Khalifeh was inspired to create Dar Noora by her father’s souvenir shop in the Old City of Al-Quds. Dar Noora is testament to the sights, sounds, and experiences Noora revelled in as a child.
Dar Noora works with local Palestinian women in Gaza, the West Bank, and Jerusalem. They all painstakingly hand stitch the needlework – and even crystals – on each piece. “There is a rich opportunity to open and expand a uniquely Palestinian fashion industry,” Noora said to Vogue Arabia. “It would counter the typically foreign-imposed model of economic development and empowerment with an organic, home-grown alternative, that stands to create jobs in which Palestinians would take great pride.”
Palestinian embroidery is definitely a woman’s thing! These techniques are passed down from mother to daughter, and it has been so for centuries. And Darzah is one company that’s ensuring that tradition is never broken.
This Palestinian fashion brand, whose name means ‘stitch’ in Arabic, works exclusively with tatreez embroidery, a centuries-old Palestinian art form. All their products are hand-embroidered by refugee and low-income artisans to create one-of-a-kind bags, shoes and clutches that form the foundation for any chic wardrobe.
This may well be one of our favourite Palestinian fashion brands! Mainly because it’s also one of the most sustainable. In fact, Trashy Clothing is so-named to represent how its designers need to start from “ground zero” in terms of materials. Operating out of Palestine and Jordan, Trashy works hard to reduce waste, maximise efficiency, and overcome the many obstacles thrown their way.
Their pieces represent both abundance and struggle; beauty and pain. They also symbolise Palestinians’ ability to overcome hardship. There’s a huge variety on offer here, from evening wear to sportswear. They upcycle many unusual finds into unique garments for men and women.
Owners Shukri Lawrence and Omar Braika are also proud advocates of the LGBQT+ community.
Those behind the Palestinian fashion brand called Falastini Brand create wonderfully unique menswear, womenswear, kids’ clothing, and accessories. Their aim is to deliver the finest handmade Palestinian products to customers all over the world. Each piece features the breathtaking arts, styles and designs that carry Palestinian heritage with a modern twist.
We particularly appreciate their intricate, colourful embroidery. You can see this on their bags, thobes (robes) and even on their hoodies and T-shirts!
This is another of our favourite Palestinian fashion brands, mainly for its sustainability. This contemporary, UAE-based label is the brainchild of Palestine born designer Reema Al Banna. Reemami repurpose their fabric leftovers to create headbands and other products to ensure zero waste. They also shun fur, leather and feathers to help stop animal cruelty.
Their denim is all Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS) certified organic cotton, and this Palestinian fashion label also uses a lot of deadstock in their designs. In addition, they produce in small batches and only when customers make an order. This reduces waste and over stocking.
Did we miss any Palestinian fashion brands? Let us know in the comments, below!