Since the start of the uprisings against the Syrian government, hundreds of thousands of Syrians have poured into Jordan. According to the UN, the number of displaced persons living in Jordanian refugee camps currently stands at 650,000.
But the picture painted by official data is quite different from reality. In the wake of the war, over 2,000 Syrians flood into Jordan everyday, and as of 2018—the once stable nation is now home to an astonishing 1.3 million refugees.
With figures that high, Syrians have become a prominent aspect of Jordanian society. They’re a tremendously visible population, mostly residing in UNHCR-provided refugee camps, with many having weaved their way into Jordanian society.
But as refugee narratives tend to play out, their personal stories are easily forgotten, but Jordanian brand Aseel Qawasmeh is on a mission to revive them.
A fashion designer by trade, Qawasmeh decided to dedicate her latest collection for ASEEL to rewriting the refugee narrative. But rather than putting the focus on the gut-wrenching and heart-breaking journeys, she’s shifting to something more positive: refugee resilience.
After serving as a fashion mentor at UNHCR’s Za’atari camp, Aseel spent her time teaching young refugees her trade. She got to know the aspiring designers, but what struck her most is their spirit—the women in particular. In the end, they wound up serving as inspiration for her, giving her the drive to tell their stories.
“Their words kept ringing over and over in my head throughout the whole process” she says.
At the heart of the collection is Hana, a 40-year-old mother of four whose husband disappeared after being injured during a car bombing. She’s lived in Jordan since 2012, leaving her southern Syrian home of Daraa behind, and her members of her family as well.
A jacket with her words woven on to its seams is Aseel’s best-selling item. A t-shirt with her UN-assigned identification number printed underneath a barcode serves as reminder to its buyers of her story.
To make the collection, Qawasmeh stayed true to the war-torn nation. She uses boldly coloured fabrics, known as Syrian Saya. It’s her way of celebrating Syrian resilience.
“This collection is for every strong woman, proud of her story, her background, and her struggles,” she added.
The ready to wear collection is now available for sale worldwide.