On March 3rd, 2016, in the late afternoon I got a message through Instagram from Diana Ishaqat inquiring if I would like to have an interview with a Prague-based magazine, and I answered with the affirmative.
Hello Dana! I’m writing for a Prague-based youth publication about Middle Eastern pop culture in fashion. I’d like to feature the opinion of an Arab blogger in the article.
Sure! That would be great!
Great! These are a few pictures of the style we’re introducing to our readers. What do you think as a beauty blogger, of arab designers using elements from the arab heritage and culture in their designs?
I think it’s great. For the last five years the fashion industry changed rapidly especially for the Arabic woman, as the world evolved and cultures mixed together, there was a general fear of identity loss. When fresh ideas came in the past 10 years by women, fashion designers and local talents alike, were mocked but as time passed by and people grew to like the idea it was imprinted into many businesses in the shape of jewelry, bags, clutches, artwork, clothes etc. What we see here is an evolution of the language not only the culture, as you know this area of the world passed continuous war and identity theft. This path in art in all its forms brought to the surface the need for Arabian women to be independent of the western style. A need to embrace what we know and mix it with what we learned. It’s a great move.
That’s a great statement and I appreciate that you mentioned the timeline of the trend’s development!
and a few weeks later I got another message from Diana:
Beautiful Dana! Hope you’re having a beautiful day. It’s been an eventful month and half. I’d like to share the article you’re featured in (and your photo is the cover photo of the story). I’d just like to mention that the magazine’s editors’ policy is not to mention any direct links to other websites, so I added the link to your social media account on the article on my blog xx here’s the link to the magazine’s article :
I was so excited reading the article and I loved reading about the designers, here’s the full article!
Modern Arab pop culture has been highly influenced by many elements from the past: lyrical references from the songs of the ’60s and the ’80s, slang words crafted in Arabic calligraphy, headdresses such as the Kufiya for men and Burqa for women, blue eye beads, and Hamsa hands. The up-and-coming Arab fashion designers are notable contributors to this culture, as they use these elements (and more) in their designs, creating unique and original brand identities.
Pamela Sfeir, a Lebanon-based designer and fashion illustrator, shares her experience: “I started my line with a few hand painted products that I posted on my Facebook profile. People started asking me about them and how they could buy them, so I started manufacturing on a small-scale and learnt how to start a small business from A to Z.”
Sfeir offers to customize her clients’ orders and delivers unique, vibrant pieces for fashionistas all over the region. “What differentiates me from other designers is that I manufacture all my products in Lebanon and each one has a special handmade touch, whether it is a painting or a handmade accessory. My ultimate goal is to create items that everyone is going to want to have,” Sfeir continues.
Sfeir explains that she uses vibrant colors in her designs because they reflect the “lively and vibrant” personalities of Middle Eastern women. “I have noticed that Arab and Lebanese women are strongly attached to their roots, and products with reminders of their countries are always bestsellers.”
Social Media has helped other local designers to gain exposure and open doors to exciting opportunities, including Joud Shurrab. “Since I was a young girl, I have had a passion for drawing. I used to draw on different materials such as clothes and furniture. When I reached university, I decided not to give up my passion, and with encouragement from my family, I studied interior design”.
Joud was an undergraduate student when she first started her line of hand drawn scarves, inspired by traditional Arab prints. She described how the support she received at university encouraged her to go further. “After graduation, I continued with a complete concentration on business, and I have established my own line of t-shirts, bags, cross bags, shoes, make-up pouches, phone covers, and passport holders. Also, I recently started a new line for men including t-shirts and men’s clutches. The feedback from my lovely friends and customers represents the biggest motivation to me. “
Joud Shurrab mainly exhibits her work on her Instagram page, where over 25k users follow her artwork. Joud’s brand, Joud Design, has traveled all the way from her home country Jordan to Egypt, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, and Lebanon to reach her customers abroad in Italy and Canada in physical stores.
In 2015, a major milestone was marked on the pathway to international recognition for Jobedu. The Jordanian pop culture brand was chosen from the top 35 brands to showcase at last year’s Emmy Awards in Hollywood. What was started in 2007 at a Friday market by then high school friends, Tamer Al Masri and Michael Makdah, had turned into a lifetime journey infused with art and creativity.
Palestinian Social Media expert, lifestyle blogger and fashion enthusiast, Dana Al-Basha describes how the trend has grown in the industry : “Over the last five years, the fashion industry has changed rapidly, especially for Arab women, as the world has evolved and cultures have mixed together. There is a general fear of identity loss.”
Al-Basha thinks of adopting elements from Arab heritage in modern fashion as a way of preserving Middle Eastern Arab heritage and identity, and mentions that the trend was challenged and didn’t appeal to consumers in the region at the beginning. “..Time passed, and people grew to like the idea, and it was implemented in many businesses in the form of jewelry, bags, clutches, artwork, and clothes”.
The topic in itself means a lot to me personally, I’m one of the most supportive people of Arab designers being a designer myself. I don’t only support with words; like most of the Jordanian social media people, we attend and market events, wear the clothes and share with our platforms and followers where we bought them from and how much we love every piece, like many of my friends back home who are avid supporters of local products.
I even once did a small photoshoot for Jobedu and a have many clutches, accessories, scarfs and bookmarks in my collection from varied designers well-known and new. Even my wedding band has Arabic typography by Azza Fahmy Jewellery.
In short, there is an undeniable movement in fashion, where women and even men want to enjoy the beauty of our culture and language. So, as I always say, support local and be proud of who you are!