‘A defiant aesthetic’: The Palestinian fashion brand trashing stereotypes

Using art and fashion to highlight diverse voices in Palestinian society, tRASHY's clothing illustrates the challenges Palestinians face in freely expressing their identities to the world

tRASHY members Shukri Lawrence and Omar Braika, pose while being projected onto co-designers Reem Kawasmi and Luai Al-Shuaibi, 21 August 2020

Samar Hazboun reports in +972:

Fashion typically evokes images of fabric lying on cutting tables, spools of yarn, needles, threads, and of course, runway models. But in a world where accessibility and movement are determined by an occupying force, fashion design takes on a new shape.

A new Palestinian fashion collective called tRASHY seeks to defy these limitations while transforming cultural attitudes, both within Palestinian society and in how the West engages with Arab-speaking communities. Its members, all 20-something Palestinians scattered across the Middle East, want to flip the script — even in the way they spell the brand’s name.

Since its founding three years ago, tRASHY has become more than a fashion brand; it is a microcosm of the many challenges Palestinian youth face in Palestine and around the world, and a platform for those who have been politically, economically, and socially disadvantaged for generations.

In the summer of 2017, founding member and filmmaker Shukri Lawrence began designing t-shirts that mix Arabic writing with international logos, “to show the West something they’re used to seeing but not from Palestine,” he says. A few months later, he was joined by Omar Braika, Reem Kawasmi and Luai Al-Shuaibi, and the group expanded their products to include dresses, jewelry, and more.

I was planning to meet with Lawrence in East Jerusalem, where he lives, and interview him in person. But he was in Amman preparing for a fashion show when the coronavirus broke out in March, and hasn’t been able to return since.

Instead, we had a Zoom call — a practice Lawrence was accustomed to even before the pandemic hit. Online chat platforms have become the team’s “office,” he explained, since this is the only way they can come together. Like many Palestinians, the team members live in separate locales and carry different forms of identification that determine where they can travel. Though Kawasmi and Al-Shuaibi also reside in East Jerusalem, Braika is based in Amman. The internet is where they can escape Israeli-imposed obstacles such as the separation barrier, checkpoints, and arbitrary security checks.

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