Palestinian fashion designer breathes new life into tradition

Palestinian fashion designer Natalie Tahhan models one of her creations at her studio in the east Jerusalem neighbourhood of Ras al-Amud (AFP)
Updated 08 May 2017
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Palestinian fashion designer breathes new life into tradition

JERUSALEM: Palestinian fashion designer Natalie Tahhan is hard at work in her Jerusalem studio, replacing the painstaking processes of cross-stitching and embroidery with a laptop computer and printed fabric.
Taking inspiration from traditional Palestinian patterns, Tahhan designs patterns digitally and then has them printed on satins and silks before piecing together her garments.
Her modern take on generations-old designs has attracted a keen following both locally and abroad, particularly in the Gulf, where she sells her clothes via the web.
“I wanted to do something new, modern, never seen on the market,” the 27-year-old said, as she measured out fabric at her studio in her family home in Ras Al-Amud, east Jerusalem.
Palestinians have for centuries painstakingly sewn long black dresses and adorned them with red embroidery, in designs still worn today in rural areas and at marriages and other celebrations.

The designs vary from region to region and tend to say something about the wearer.
“We can tell where the woman who wears it is from and if she is married or single,” Tahhan said.
Several young Arab designers have sought to modernize traditional wear and bring the dresses of their ancestors — an increasingly rare sight today — to a new generation.
Tahhan, who studied in Doha and at the London College of Fashion, is among the few to do so in Jerusalem. She believes she is the only one to have abandoned traditional embroidery for her new method.
As the Palestinian territories lack the equipment she needs, she has her fabrics printed in Dubai.
They are then delivered to Jerusalem via Qatar and Jordan to circumvent the lack of direct shipments from the Gulf countries to Israel and the Palestinian territories.
Maha Saca, director of the Palestine Heritage Center in the occupied West Bank city of Bethlehem, says she supports efforts to breathe new life into traditional designs.
“Adding Palestinian motifs to modern wear is very important. It means we can wear a modern dress with Palestinian embroidery on it,” she said.
The center, established in 1991, boasts the largest collection of traditional Palestinian dresses.
“Embroidery is part of our identity and our proof of our existence in every Palestinian city and village,” Saca said. “It shows the beauty and richness of our Palestinian heritage.”
She is lobbying for traditional embroidery to be incorporated into Palestinian school uniforms.
Saca said top-end handmade dresses can cost between $1,500 and $2,000 because of the long hours of labor involved and the cost of materials.
She stresses the need to preserve hand embroidering techniques, but accepts that clothes are being produced in new and more modern ways.
“We support it 100 percent,” she said.
Tahhan’s first collection, consisting of five white and violet satin capes with shimmering geometric patterns, sold out completely in less than three months at a price of $550 a piece.
Most of the sales were to Gulf clients who bought the items online.
One of Tahhan’s signature works is a cape inspired by designs from the West Bank city of Hebron, occupied by Israel for 50 years. The garment bears a succession of blue and pink squares over black fabric, and is open at the shoulders.
Tahhan’s light fabrics work well in the Gulf market, where heavy black felt or thick cotton can become unbearable under the burning sun.
Her latest collection is called “Prints of Palestine.”
Tahhan’s location in Jerusalem, a city holy to Muslims, Christians and Jews, is also a plus for sales “despite the obstacles and difficulties” imposed by Israel’s occupation, she said.
Israel seized the West Bank and east Jerusalem in 1967. It later annexed east Jerusalem in a move never recognized by the international community.
Palestinians see the eastern sector as the capital of their future state, while Israelis consider the entire city of Jerusalem their unified capital.
“I wanted to do something as a girl from Jerusalem,” said Tahhan, her long black hair falling over her shoulders. “Why not create fashion here?“
“People love the idea of owning something made in Jerusalem, especially Palestinians abroad,” she said.
“When they buy something they feel they are taking with them a small piece of the city.”


Nora Attal has her day in the sun in Marrakesh

Updated 19 March 2019
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Nora Attal has her day in the sun in Marrakesh

DUBAI: British-Moroccan model Nora Attal posed up a storm in Marrakesh’s golden sunlight for a new campaign by fashion brand Zara.

The in-demand model shared snaps from the campaign, photographed by Christian Macdonald, on her Instagram account.

The collection of photographs show Attal modelling looks from Zara’s laid-back Spring/Summer 2019 collection against a backdrop of rippling sand dunes. Her featured ensembled include kaftans and long-length cardigans with hefty stripes in a clay-and-beige color palette.

Attal is no stranger to fronting campaigns — in January, the model was chosen as one of seven rising stars to feature in British fashion house Alexander McQueen’s latest campaign.

The Spring/Summer 2019 collection photoshoot was shot by British fashion and documentary photographer Jamie Hawkesworth and featured Attal wearing a number of cowboy-inspired looks.

The year has gotten off to a busy start for Attal, who was similarly in demand in 2018, when she took to the catwalk for Elie Saab, Loewe and Dior during Paris Fashion Week in September and starred in Italian fashion label Versace’s summer advert campaign.

In May, luxury e-retailer Farfetch launched in the Middle East with a little help from the young model.

She starred in a photoshoot wearing pieces from collections on sale on the platform. The colorful photographs were accompanied by a snappy, chatty interview with the young model.
Readers got the chance to gain insight into her earliest fashion memories and learn some off-the-cuff facts about the star.

“Recently I’ve been obsessed with noughties trends. Everyone was so cool and effortless back then. Now I go out in a full Juicy Couture tracksuit with no shame,” she told Farfetch at the time.

“If I wasn’t a model, I’d probably be at university, studying to get into something like criminal investigations, profiling or law,” she added.

Attal finished off 2018 by hitting the sand dunes in the UAE — however, this time it wasn’t part of a high-end photoshoot, but rather a day of fun.

The model enjoyed an afternoon of sandboarding in the emirate of Sharjah and even posted a snap on Instagram at the time.

“Apparently sandboarding is a thing,” she captioned the sunset shot.