Palestinian women embroidering in a refugee camp seem a world apart from red carpets and Bloomingdale’s. Zeina Abou Chaaban, a young Palestinian woman from Dubai, brought the two together in the exclusive fashion brand ‘Palestyle‘.
The idea for Palestyle developed after a visit to a refugee camp in Jordan in 2005. In 2009 Palestyle became a reality, and together with her brother, Ahmad Abou Chabaan, Zeina made the brand into what it is today. At the moment, they employ some hundred women from various camps to cater for the growing demand.
Palestyle sells clothing, handbags and accessories with traditional Palestinian embroidery, made by women in refugee camps in Lebanon and Jordan. At the moment their products are for sale from Qatar to the UK in luxury fashion store chains and online, and stars like Eva Longoria and Lily Cole are regular customers. The collection includes various silk and chiffon shawls, garments, jewelry and leather bags. The traditional embroidery and calligraphic Arabic letters, combined with modern design, are Palestyle’s distinguishing features. Palestyle uses high quality materials like silk and Italian leather.
Embroidery is the common thread running through Palestyle. Before, embroidery used to be almost a language for Palestinians, as patterns and colour use told a lot about a woman. It signified where a woman came from, her social status, and whether she was from a wealthy background. Unfortunately, over the last 60 years, not only that language was lost, the art itself has come to be practiced less and less. The younger generations came to see embroidery as something outdated, belonging to their mothers, until they saw the trendy products Palestyle creates from this tradition. Thus a new generation developed to pass the art on to.
The ladies working for Palestyle receive, apart from the salary for hours worked, five percent of the proceeds of all sales. However, Palestyle does not see itself as a charity. It is a social project, aimed at providing women with more independence and an income. In addition, it is a way to preserve some Palestinian culture in these modern times. It brings compassionate fashion, Arab style..
Palestyle has not reached the limits to its growth yet. It plans to go worldwide in the future, and at present their website is being redesigned to allow direct ordering. Additionally a men’s line is being developed.
Translated by Mark Eijkman
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