Zeina Abu Chabaan is a designer with a conscience, a UAE newspaper reported on Friday.
The Dubai-based founder of the fashion label, Palestyle, along with her brother Ahmed, showcase handicrafts and products such as bags, dresses and more, traditionally hand-embroidered by Palestinian women refugees, the Gulf News reported.
“The idea is to showcase dying art, and thus help the Palestinian women stand on their own feet,” Abu Chabaan was quoted by the newspaper as saying.
She said she was not doing charity work, but simply showcasing Palestinian heritage from a sartorial aspect, while the refugee women get a fair deal from what is sold.
“A percentage of each Palestyle bag or clutch or dress or piece of jewelry that is sold ensures that they lead a better life,” she said.
Abu Chabaan always wanted to help Palestinian women in refugee camps in neighboring countries such as Jordan and Palestinian, leading to the birth of her “social project” which focuses on employing the women in Jordanian camps.
“I first visited a refugee camp in Jordan in 2005, and I was moved to say the least. I really admire the women. Then they were doing the embroidery as a part of sharing their heritage with the world, and that’s when it clicked for me. I wanted to support them in any way we could, and I wanted to share our heritage with the world,” the designer said.
Since its foundation in 2009, Palestyle had a few women on board, but has swelled up to 100 women at present time.
Kholoud Abdul Aziz, a 35-year old refugee and mother of five children, is one of the women working on hand embroidery at the company.
“My main motivation is financial, as the income we receive on each design helps us in supporting our family. But I also enjoy sharing my heritage,” she was quoted by the Gulf News as saying.
And so the embroidery is an integral part of Palestinian culture that it has its own language, according to Abu Chabaan.
“In Palestine, the patterns they embroidered would tell you different things about the women who made them. Each pattern will identify which village or area the girl came from. The women from the north embroidered cypress trees while the ones from the south, which is mostly desert, embroider tent patterns. The colors too, signify something. Red signifies that the woman is married, blue that she’s single. So you can see that it is almost a bio data,” Abu Chabaan said.
Palestyle has garnered an international and celebrity following, with buyers all the way from Australia to the United Kingdom and the Middle East. American actress Eva Longoria is a regular customer after her visit to Bloomingdales department store, which stocks Palestyle products, in her recent visit to Dubai.
Ahmed Abu Chabaan, who is also the creative director, working on collections, and monitoring trends, plans to spread Palestyle across various social media platforms. His sister is more involved in enhancing boosting social development for the refugee camps by looking into affiliations with organizations to build schools and improve infrastructure.