Palestinian Fashion Goes Green: Swapping Traditional Clothing for Sustainable Clothing

Palestinian runways are now being filled with multi-coloured dresses of recycled material including discarded plastic, rolled up pages from sophisticated fashion magazines, and even hundreds of matchsticks painted into a rainbow. The runway created an opportunity for designers to work with a world-famous designer and showcase their creations.

In this article, we are gonna discuss the creations and ideas of three talented designers. All three of the fashion designers first met in October 2017, after being selected to participate in a workshop in sustainable fashion run by the Ramallah based AM Qattan Foundation.

Changing perceptions on fashion

Maen A’llewy, is a 22-year-old menswear fashion designer who displayed his clothing on the catwalk. He started using an array of recycled materials two years ago to create clothing and has been a designer for four years.

The designer from Nablus, a city in the West Bank is attempting to change local perceptions of embroidery use. He is repurposing and upcycling second-hand material and sewing it into both male and female clothes.  A’llewy says he hopes to reduce waste and encourage people to try something different.

“Traditionally, embroidery is for females. It’s not common for men to wear embroidery,” A’llewy tells Middle East Eye. “So I’m trying to make something different, and to make people realise it’s not just for females.” He said.

(Source: A.M Qattan Foundation)

A’llewy says he faces many challenges with the local community, due to lack of awareness. People tend to prefer “fast-fashion”. He recalls comments on Facebook by users on his designs, referring to it as collected rubbish.

“People aren’t conscious enough to buy a product that is recycled by me … they just aren’t into buying handmade, second-hand products,” he explains.

“It’s not possible to change how people think, it’s difficult, but I have hope,” A’llewy added.

A’llewy, who currently sells solely online or directly to customers, hopes to open a fashion house in Nablus to encourage Palestinian fashion designers to work together in a central space. He is now preparing a new recycled collection, consisting mainly of jackets with patched, recycled, embroidery artworks.

(Source: A.M Qattan Foundation)

The positive impact of sustainability

Hussam Omari is a 25 year old designer since 2014, he is from Jenin in the far north of the West Bank. Last year he also decided to start experimenting with recycled materials in his design creations. But Omari also cares about the positive impact sustainable fashion has on reducing waste.

“I practise [designing with recycled material] because I think it’s more eye-catching and gives me a special name,” Omari says.

“[There should be] a culture to preserve the environment at its best and utilise materials that can be recycled,” he says.

Omari creates women’s clothing from quality but rejected fabrics such as satin, malleable metal mixed with soft cottons, bold dresses of repurposed Vogue magazine pages, and stiff, bell-shaped dresses of painted matchsticks. Omari sells his clothes at Stella Fashion in his hometown, which he has owned for two years. However, most of the time he gets custom orders, the average cost of his clothes is $50.

 (Source:Tessa Fox)

A’llewy and Omari had already met in 2014. They had both started studying fashion design at Khdorey University in Tulkarem in the West Bank.

The two fashion designers exlusively use recycled materials for runway shows and new collections to show what fashion can achieve. If clients are interested, they have the option of buying designs as they are on the runway or swapping recycled materials for new materials.

(Source: A.M Qattan Foundation)


Recycled designs

Maha Shaltaf is a 54 year old Palestinian fashion designer living in Ramallah. She has been designing clothes for  over 30 years. She started with repurposing old clothes for her and her daughters to then redesign them. Nowadays, she has made a name for herself and people all around Palestine come to her for her recycled, sustainable designs.

“I often use existing, traditional, Palestinian embroidery to put on accessories like handbags, as well as mixing [second-hand] jeans or leather and even using [old] beads [in my designs],” Shaltaf explains.

She also explains why she is pro sustainable fasion.

“I think it’s bad to keep throwing clothes out, and money-wise it’s not conscious to keep spending money on clothes”

She is more about satisfying her customers rather then only getting her designs on fasion runways.

“I make stuff for people to wear, even if it’s on the runway,” Shaltaf says. “I want [my customers] to be happy.”

(Source: A.M Qattan Foundation)