From a studio in Jerusalem, 27-year-old Palestinian fashion designer Nathalie Tahhan has been making a splash in the fashion world. So what's unique about her work?
A graduate of the London College of Fashion, Tahhan has replaced the intensive procedure of cross-stitching and embroidery with a laptop and printer.
Inspired by traditional Palestinian patterns, Tahhan's designs are created digitally before being printed onto satins and silks.
The way she has modernized traditional designs has garnered a great deal of attention both locally and from abroad, particularly from the Gulf.
“I wanted to do something new, modern, never seen on the market,” she once said in an interview.
Palestinians have been sewing and wearing long embroidered black dresses for centuries, with design patterns that are unique to various regions and statuses.
“We can tell where the woman who wears it is from and if she is married or single,” Tahhan said.
Many Arab designers have tried to renew traditional wear, but Tahhan is one of the few to do so in Jerusalem. Better yet, she believes she is the only one to have actually renounced traditional embroidery.
Due to the lack of equipment in the Palestinian territories, she has her fabrics printed in Dubai. The fabrics are then delivered to Jerusalem through Qatar and Jordan, in order to avoid the hassle of direct shipment from the Gulf to Israel and Palestinian Territories.
“Adding Palestinian motifs to modern wear is very important. It means we can wear a modern dress with Palestinian embroidery on it,” said Maha Saca, director of the Palestine Heritage Center in the occupied West Bank city of Bethlehem.
Saca believes that embroidery is part of the Palestinian identity and roots, yet she accepts that clothes are being shaped into new modern ways.
“We support it 100 percent,” she confirms. Most of Tahhan’s sales come from the Gulf. Her first collection was sold out in less than three months for 550$ a piece. Her light fabrics work perfectly for the Gulf market, especially when the heat becomes intolerable.
"Let’s create fashion here"
"I wanted to do something as a girl from Jerusalem. Why not create fashion here?" said Tahhan.
One of the most significant pieces is a cape enthused by designs from the West Bank city of Hebron, occupied by Israel for 50 years. That beautiful piece is a mixture of blue and pink squares over black fabric and is open at the shoulders.
Her most recent collection is named "Prints of Palestine."
"People love the idea of owning something made in Jerusalem, especially Palestinians abroad, when they buy something they feel they are taking with them a small piece of the city."