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‘3EIB’ Is The Fearless Initiative Platforming Emerging and Trending Arab Brands

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Nothing says community more than a tightly-knit network you support, uphold, and nurture through both good times and a shared sense of purpose. Firmly endorsing this ethos, 3EIB stands at the center of communal solidarity, championing collective growth all while platforming those whose talent often goes unnoticed, not to say almost sidelined completely, from the spotlight of recognition and opportunity.

Launched in September 2023, the initiative is best described by its founder, London-born Palestinian creative Dania Arafeh, as “an online platform, a creative marketplace, and pop-up series” designed to showcase and promote fashion brands from the SWANA region. From hosting quarterly pop-ups and runway shows during London Fashion Week to presenting exclusive collaborations, the newly-founded collective cultivates a dynamic space where couture meets culture and where diversity thrives and serves as the driving force. 

Speaking on what led her to bring such a platform to life, Arafeh revealed that growing up in the West has often felt like flipping through a fashion magazine with missing pages— specifically, those focusing on the Middle East and North Africa. With a background in E-commerce and arts, the young entrepreneur chose to use her experience to stitch together a narrative where regional brands aren’t just featured, they’re the main event. 

“I learned a lot from my past experiences, as well as the harsh reality that our culture isn’t platformed because institutions don’t believe in our potential. This is something I’m committed to changing,’ she continued, adding that if someone wants to push the dial forward and challenge the status quo, they need to do it themselves. “If you want to support your region, your people, and spotlight the culture that you love, you need to build your own systems; you can’t do it within the confines of existing spaces,” the 29-year-old said. 

With the notion of breaking barriers always taking precedence, beyond its chauvinistic facade, Arafeh’s venture also aims to redefine the significance of the term it uses as a trade name. Heavy in meaning and connotation, the word that was once used to undermine one’s actions has now become the cornerstone upon which empowerment is built, flipping the script on an outdated narrative she believes is rooted in anything but common sense or progress. Loosely translating to “shame” in English, 3EIB boldly defies one of the Arab World’s most entrenched societal norms, proving that strength can emerge from what was once deemed humiliating. 

“Before I even knew exactly what I was going to build, I knew I wanted to call it 3EIB,” Arafeh explained. “Within our culture, it’s a word that’s commonly used as a weapon that serves the systems of oppression we all live beneath: patriarchy, capitalism, and colonialism. It’s actually got nothing to do with our culture or our religion in its authenticity,” she further explained. “Our power is rooted in being able to step outside socially constructed systems and find our own voice. That begins with creating a community where we can all authentically be ourselves.”

Operating on a commission-based structure, every label or creative can find a home within 3EIB, which takes only a 15 percent financial cut that is significantly lower than industry norms of 30 percent. What’s more, the platform has also adopted a drop-shipping system, sparing retailers the need to stock inventory. So far, 30 brands from the SWANA region are expected to be listed on her website upon its launch — scheduled for the end of Ramadan — which is a number that is only expected to rise in the months to come and which includes Meera Adnan, Suez Studios, and UNTY, among others. Speaking of the process of selection, brands that wish to be featured need to meet three main criteria. 

“The idea was born out of my return to my homeland: Palestine, where I spent three months traveling from north to south in the hopes of discovering cutting-edge creatives. The trip invigorated me, and once I returned to London I began an intensive research stint to try and map out all the emerging and trending designers and brands from the region.

To make the list, a brand needs to be doing something different. They need to be “rooted in their culture while stepping outside the box to create something unique.” Just as important is the quality of the brand, as “one of our main missions is to take up space in the existing cultural landscape,” and by doing so they’re competing with Western labels who are already at high production and quality standards. “We’re not creating a charity project for people to invest in so they can feel good, we want to showcase cutting-edge and unique brands that proves we are equal and worthy.” Lastly, if you want to make the cut, you need to have good vibes, as Arafeh put it. 

For the up-and-coming business owner, to successfully carry a project out, it’s pivotal to surround yourself “with people who are genuine, who want you to succeed, and who want to succeed together through a collaborative rather than a competitive mindset,” she revealed. “I don’t have a team, I’m pretty much doing this solo. So I really rely on the designers, the brands, and the extended community to support and help make this a reality,” she said. “For example, with our latest pop-up, I asked everyone if they were able to help set up and pack down. I couldn’t do this without their support – and shout out to Suez who really went above and beyond! 

On some of the places she’d like to take 3EIB in the future, beyond developing the brand further and welcoming more brands and more visitors to their already-existing concepts, Arafeh shared that the idea of a fashion-focused festival was “on the cards,” alongside 3EIB merchandise to sartorially break free from the shackles of oppressive moulds and claim your power back. “We want to shift the term into something that’s light, fun and puts a smile on your face. It’s this idea of releasing the trauma and not taking it so seriously anymore. It’s a way of healing,” she concluded.

Graffiti by Malik Polo
Pictures courtesy of Ceriena Khzouz

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