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Jordanian-Palestinian Designer Zeid Hijazi Unveils His Debut Collection, And It’s Stunning

He's certainly one to watch

Zeid Hijazi is a rising star in the fashion industry. The Jordanian-Palestinian designer, who made waves for being the youngest-ever recipient of the inaugural Fashion Trust Arabia Debut Talent Award in 2020, has just unveiled his first collection of garments for Spring 2022. Entitled “Kalt,” what sets the London-based designer’s collection of meticulously tailored wool coats, structural dresses, and embroidered denim trousers apart from other offerings is the use of traditional techniques employed by female artisans, which give the pieces a unique and intricate finish.

Hijazi was inspired to incorporate tatreez cross-stitching into his designs as a means of resistance against an occupying force. He spent weeks working side-by-side with women artisans in Beirut and Amman to bring his vision to life and the results are stunning. The rising creative successfully blended the traditional with the modern, creating a collection that is both timeless and contemporary.

The 2003 Tunisian film Bedwin Hacker served as the starting point for the new womenswear collection. Directed by Nadia El Fani, the action-adventure feature follows a woman named Sonia Hamza who figures out a way to hijack European airwaves to broadcast pro-Arab messages. This artfully translated into Hijazi’s offering via traditional motifs, such as The Key of Hebron, Cypress, and The Ears of Corn, cross-stitched onto neckties, trousers, and skirts. In addition to being an important symbol of Palestinian culture, tatreez is an unwritten language, a secret code, passed from generation to generation. For him, upholding this traditional technique is a way to preserve his ancestor’s culture, while humanizing the Palestinian experience by keeping their stories alive.

Below, we caught up with Hijazi to learn more about his debut collection, his inspiration, and what it was really like working with local craftswomen.

When thinking up your latest collection, what’s that process like for you? 

A lot of research went to it. It’s my first collection and I truly wanted it to live up to the expectations. I was developing it the same way an engineer develops an engine. If there’s one piece that’s not right, it won’t operate full stop. Hence, I wanted it to be curated perfectly. There’s not one piece that doesn’t come from an intellectual point of view. A very wise man in fashion once told me “your first collection will determine your future” and I’m very glad I took his advice and my time in developing this body of work because the press I got from it was insane. I released it in April and it’s still a topic of conversation. I’m very grateful.

Can you tell us more about the process of working with local craftswomen? 

I am not going to say it was the most beautiful experience because it wasn’t. I worked with the Association for the Development of Palestinian Camps (INAASH) in Lebanon to develop the embroideries. It was truly a battle because these women live in camps, the electricity runs from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. and after that they can’t work as there’s no electricity. It’s truly disheartening to see such talented women go through this when actually all they want to do is feed their children. But what’s remarkable and leaves me inspired is witnessing the precision in preserving this mystical indigenous craft.

How did your Palestinian heritage influence your creations?

I mean the occupation is the topic of conversation on our dinner table every night. As I was designing the collection I kept on watching Bedwin Hacker, which told the story of a woman (Sonia Hamza) hacking into European television frequencies to broadcast pro-Arab messages from the desert. That was the root of the collection. I then decided to develop modern Palestinian embroideries on the pieces in an abstract way. The motifs represent codes the hacker used in order to crack the frequencies. As much as I wanted the collection to be political I also wanted it to represent the powerful, sexy Arab women. That resulted in the creation of the “Kalt” dress— it’s everyone’s favorite!

Why is it important to uphold traditional Palestinian craftsmanship in your work?

It’s the only thing that’s left for us, everything got stolen and robbed so might as well just try to keep this sacred form of art which can go on for generations to follow.

What inspires you stylistically?

I’ve always been inspired by things that are not fashion. When you take things that are not fashion and translate them into high fashion that’s when you’re a smart designer.  The Dada movement is a big inspiration of mine. Dadaists were artists that made art in reaction to the absurdity of war and made sense of brutality through art. I study and investigate ways on how I can translate that into high fashion in an intelligent way. I don’t believe I’m there yet but I’m constantly trying to master that technology.

When did you first develop an interest in fashion?

I think I was nine when I watched my big sister star in a play about mannequins who transform into humans at midnight in an atelier. That was my first encounter with fashion. I then slept on the idea of becoming a designer until I was about to graduate from high school. My art teacher came up to my parents and told them that I’m going to do big things and that New York or London is the place for me. I already had offers from Parsons and Central Saint Martins back then but I decided to go to Central Saint Martins as it’s more conceptual. It’s also the place where all my idols studied so it made total sense that it was the right place for me.

What do you think the future of Palestinian fashion holds?

The future of Palestine remains unclear as long as it continues to exist under occupation. Therefore, it’s difficult to predict the future of its creative scene. However, I believe that the role of Palestinian fashion designers in the diaspora is creating visibility to the Palestinian identity and cause.

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