Designer brings local talent to IKEA

In this undated photo, Tania Haddad with her hand embroidered throw for the LOKALT collection. (Photo: Prod Antzoulis)
AMMAN — Tania Haddad, the brains behind the fashion label Tania George, will have her products featured in IKEA in June of this year as part of a collection called LOKALTاضافة اعلان

LOKALT was curated by designers from Jordan, Thailand, and India, and is inspired by local crafts and traditions. The collection, which also promotes livelihoods for vulnerable communities, was announced by IKEA during a virtual event on Thursday and it will be launched across 294 stores in 25 markets, Jordan included, in June 2021.

Tania Haddad, who is working in collaboration with the Jordan River Foundation, worked with skilled Jordanian craftswomen to create intricate hand-embroidered cushion covers and throws for her collaboration with IKEA. She directed the nonchalant energy of her own personal brand into the designs.

“My brand was a pioneer of telling stories about Jordan. It is my main inspiration right now; it is what I’m really passionate about,” she said in an interview with Jordan News.

Through colorful drawings inspired by her surroundings, Haddad creatively narrates stories of the mundane. From stacked neighborhood buildings, to decorated pickup trucks, to colorful clotheslines, Haddad’s designs for LOKALT perfectly capture the spirit of Amman.

“Amman is a very special city for me. It’s beautiful and charming and a bit chaotic with all the people, the colorful cars, the small alleyways, and the rooftops that double as living rooms,” the designer said in an interview published in IKEA’s catalog. “I call it a beautiful chaos — a chaos I miss every time I’m away.”

In a press release issued by IKEA, Creative Leader Maria O’Brian said that “LOKALT is a collection with modern and expressive takes on traditional handicraft. It’s full of quirky details that tell stories from the places where the products are actually made.”

According to the statement, “every cushion cover, rug, basket, and bowl creates equality, inclusion, and livelihoods in regions where it’s most needed.”

The collection has created job opportunities for local artisans by pairing contemporary designers with craftspeople. While Haddad has been working with social businesses all along, partnering with IKEA allowed her how to provide opportunities on a greater scale. 

Haddad told Jordan News that she always knew she would end up working in a creative industry. She started taking professional drawing classes when she was 11 years old and she learned the ins and outs of art, art history, and colors.

“When I became a teenager I started to have more interest in fashion. That’s when I wanted to combine both my skills; I wanted to combine art and fashion because, for me, fashion was a nice way of expressing myself,” she said.

Haddad then moved to Europe, where she studied visual arts in Switzerland and then continued with fashion design in Italy. It was during an internship at a printing factory that she started building the idea of what would become her own line.

“My teacher encouraged me to do the internship because it was printing and designing prints on fabric and he saw a skill in me that I didn’t know I had,” she recalled. “When I started working at the factory, I realized how deep the world of prints was and that’s when I realized that this is what I wanted to do.”

Haddad decided back then that she would fuse fashion with art by telling stories through prints. So, she came back from Europe with a new perspective that allowed her to appreciate the most basic narratives of Jordanian culture that one often dismisses or takes for granted.

Her brand, which she describes as humorous and free-spirited, tells those stories through colorful and cartoonish prints that feature motifs of the mundane. 

“Everything we do, we have our own way of doing it. And I think these stories are brilliant and funny and entertaining,” the designer said. “Like the idea of getting gas from a truck or hailing a bus or going around town with your whistle and selling cotton candy.” She tries to highlight “these small things that you see every single day in Jordan and you might not even notice.” 

The designer found her brand’s distinguishing style and identity in a more “easygoing” aesthetic.

Casual wear that “likes to dance and socialize”, according to Haddad, is needed as it speaks of hope and happiness. 

“I like things to be light — nothing heavy, nothing serious. That’s why I wanted my brand to give a cartoony vibe. Our brand sticks out as a positive light for the future or a disconnect from the negativity around us,” she said. “And I did the casual wear, like the shorts and the oversized shirts. I think it was something new. Even up until now, people come to the shop and think they’re pajamas,” she said.

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