Reactivating traditional manufacturing by incorporating a modern claim, Palestinian designer Hazar Jawabra has found in knitwear an effective way to express her emotions, beliefs and feelings – from her passion for history to her disagreement with certain aspects of today’s society. Through the “language of an infinite game of textures,” the young artist immerses herself in an introspective exercise that results in knitted, vividly colourful collections. Always putting intuition at the forefront of her creativity.
Knitwear and lots of colour; all your garments combine this meticulous artisanal technique with chromatic intensity. What concept does Hazar Jawabra hide beyond what is evident to the eye?
Over the years, I’ve grown to become a self-conscious woman. I’ve learned to love and criticize the expectations that society and the world have imposed on me. I found myself trapped in a complicated dialogue: belonging yet feeling different at the same time. This inner monologue brought up dilemmas and conflicts in my close surrounding – home, family, city, world…
In this project, I’ve worked with knitting as a traditional technique that brings the object closer to the body. My collection tells the story I aim to present: colourful, radical, joyful, funny and hard. All these contradicting feelings and characteristics are joined to make a collection, and that reflects my everyday feelings. In this project, the knitted piece was born from threads that became knots, and the inter-twirling within it metaphorically expresses the accumulated feelings that build my existential experience.
Clothes function as a cover that forms a second layer of skin, the other nature that each of us carries inside. My aim is to present the many faces and identities that lay inside of us, and so is my collection. My collection speaks the language of an infinite game of textures that eventually forms a wardrobe.
Being 24, you have decided to start your own brand. Entrepreneurship is always a challenge, but even more so when you are so young. Do you fully trust in your project? Have you always been clear that you would end up leading your own brand?
I trust in my project deeply. I’ve always dreamed of creating my own brand, and up until this day I’ve had some insecurities. I haven’t sold any pieces yet and, as you know, I have just started in the creation process; it’s still the first step of my plans. My biggest fear, of course, is the fact that I am still young. But I have deep faith, and I believe that I will be able to continue. I’m currently considering my next step, which is designing an entire collection using the same techniques but with some differences from my current one, titled Different Skin’s Tones.
At your age, many young designers are still studying and perfecting their technique. Others collaborate with established creators in the production of their collections. How has your path been to get here?
When I started attending Bezalel college, I took a knitting course. I loved the technique, the texture and the loom, because I felt they gave me full freedom to create. I didn’t feel knitting limited me in my designs, and it provided me with a tool to express myself, my feelings and my beliefs. It helped me to express things that I couldn’t put into words, so I’ve put it into my works. I will continue using this technique and I will include it along with others in my future collections.
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I imagine that taking the decision to create a brand, in addition to a lot of determination and willpower, requires a considerable economic investment. What has been the most difficult so far? Have you felt supported by your closest circle?
The decision to start my own project was tough because it required a lot of courage! Currently, the difficulty lies in designing and creating a new collection without facing repetition. But at the same time, I want my new creations to include my signature style so that anyone that sees it can tell it’s my design and line of work.
I have immense support from my family and friends. My mother is my biggest supporter from day one and she is the one who taught me knitting. She helps me in my projects, and this collection was a joint work of both of us. My family and friends’ support has always been my push forward, and without them I wouldn’t have reached this today. So I’d like to thank them from the bottom of my heart.
Your short history as a brand has not prevented you from forging a recognizable style, in which yellow, orange, blue or red are integrated into the same knitwear item. Where does your passion for this technique stem from?
I love colours because I consider them to be a source of energy, optimism and brightness. From the beginning of my journey in fashion design school, I’ve always chosen bold tones. It could be an entire collection consisting of one single hue, but I’ve always dared to choose bold colours because I feel that they represent me best and they show who the design belongs to – from the colour selection to the combination pattern.
In my second year of school, during my knitting course, I got inspired by the Samburu tribe in Kenya. I chose them because everything they have is handmade, and they have always gone for different colour combinations for their outfits. Each colour represents something different, and I felt complete harmony with their dress code and art. It was there where I found my love and passion for this kind of art in design. So, whenever I wanted to design a garment, I would start knitting pieces of different colours and attach them to the mannequin, and continue to add more pieces and change their place until I reached a result that satisfied me and made the final clothing piece. I’ve never relied on sketches.
Different Skin’s Tones is precisely the title of your first collection, an ode to diversity. The first proposals are always crucial since you must show who you are or what you want to communicate through fashion. What message did you want to send to the world with this collection?
When I first started thinking about a name for my collection, I faced difficulties because there was more than one message I wanted to convey to my society and the world at large. I chose Different Skin’s Tones because clothes are basically our second skin, and every person chooses them (the clothes) based on how he/she/they prefer to look and what impression he/she/they would like to give.
Clothes represent personalities, and I’ve decided to give my society and the world a different and colourful collection that doesn’t resemble any other usual clothing pieces. That way, it expresses the inner self that can’t be put out into words and other people living in traditional and conservative communities who are afraid of dressing up and expressing themselves. I believe that each one of us has a unique trait but not everyone dares to express it.
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You presented the collection at The World University Student Fashion Competition in Quingdao, China – an event that invites various designers from different countries and universities around the world to participate. And you won! How did you receive the news?
First of all, I’d like to thank my college – the Jewellery and Fashion department at Bezalel Arts Academy – for choosing me to take part in this competition. I was very excited to participate, and it was the first competition I took part in. I met a lot of designers from different parts of the world, and I saw many works and heard different perspectives in different domains, which helped me to learn. I won the prize and it was indescribable. It gave me more confidence in myself and my work. From that moment, I decided to develop my project and step forward to prove to everyone around that I exist and that I can express and convey my opinion and artistic practice to the world.
You are originally from Palestine, a territory still to be explored in terms of fashion. The excessive prominence given to Europe and the US tends to overshadow emerging designers from the Middle East and other parts of the world. How do your roots and culture influence your way of understanding fashion? And in the creative process?
Knitting started in Palestine a long time ago. For generations, women have knitted everything around the house, from clothing to kitchen linens and so on. Palestinian embroidery is what’s special about Palestinian women, and it still exists until this day. Every area has its own colour and pattern, which differentiates it from others. Also, to knit home linen the technique is different from the one you use to knit clothing, for example.
In my collection, I took all the textures that distinguish my grandmother and my mother, and included them in my own way, so that every Palestinian that sees the pieces can find something that resembles his/her/their grandmother or mother, yet in bolder, more vivid colours. Some garments resemble Palestinian embroidery but they were made in a loom.
“Clothes function as a cover that forms a second layer of skin, the other nature that each of us carries inside. My aim is to present the many faces and identities that lay inside of us.”
I perceive a multitude of references in your work coming from different countries and cultures. As you recalled earlier, you turned to Kenya, specifically the Samburu tribe, in your first knitting project in 2018. The liveliness of the colours and the craftsmanship also remind me of the traditional Mexican culture, for example. Where do you go for inspiration?
I study thoroughly and choose my inspirations carefully when I work with different cultures, habits and traditions. Sometimes, the inspiration comes from ceremonies, a specific tradition, local crafts or even colours. I study them carefully and mix them with my own culture and traditions.
The locations of your editorials are very curious to me. Far from betting on white backgrounds or minimalist installations, you present models sitting on sofas or perched on the dining room table. Do you think the fashion industry is demanding more naturalness?
In my project I talk about myself. When I went with Fadi (the photographer) to shoot the collection, we decided to go for an environment that resembled me, so we chose an old house/hotel in Nazareth. We are also planning to shoot a video in a rural area because nature has always been my first and initial source of inspiration. It will include colours and shapes that harmonically create beautiful landscapes and sounds we get to enjoy.
You completely hide the face of the models with masks. Why do you omit their faces?
The face cover – the mask – functions as a screen and as a visual emphasis of our inner and private features.
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Are they men, are they women, or just people? Could your proposal be classified as unisex?
My collection is unisex but I’ve chosen to label it as menswear because there is a message I’d like to convey to my society in particular. It’s menswear so it can prove that men can also dress colourfully, distinctively and exceptionally. Men mustn't fear if a woman attempts to dress and style them.
Your presence on social networks is reduced to less than twenty posts on Instagram, published sporadically since November 2019. Something unusual considering that the vast majority of creators share content daily on their profiles. What does this decision respond to? What other communication channels do you use?
The only social media platform I use is Instagram, and the reason I haven’t published anything yet is that I’m still working on my project and shooting the collection catalogue and video. So whenever I feel it’s time to share, I won’t hesitate to do it.
And one last question. What are your next goals?
I have a lot of goals but the first one is to finish my new collection and present it to the public. Also, I’d like my project and message to reach as many people as possible so everyone around the world can see and understand it.
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