Brand weaves tales of inclusivity into denim

(Photo: Handout from Salma Shawa)
AMMAN — Anat international describes itself as being “genderless slow-fashion. Handmade in Gaza, Palestine.” and was founded by Salma Shawa alongside her mother, Muna Masri. اضافة اعلان

The brand specializes in creating denim jackets with traditional Palestinian embroidery on the back, creating pieces that effortlessly combine the traditional and the modern.

The creative design and direction are headed by Masri, with more of the communications and backend work being managed by Shawa, who spoke to Jordan News last Wednesday.

The brand’s creation was the result of pure happenstance.

“Three years ago I bought a denim jacket, just a plain one. And I just asked my mom to embroider and [add tatreez] on the back of the jacket. So she did, and it was really, really cool. I literally wore it, like, every single day,” Shawa began.

“(Soon,) people were asking ‘oh my God, where can I get this? It looks really cool.’ And I was like, ‘oh, my mom made it.’ So that’s where the idea came from,” she continued.

Shawa told Jordan News about how making tatreez accessible to the public is what set their brand apart from others, “I think people felt that it’s cool to put the tatreez on a very casual piece, like a denim jacket. You don’t have to wear a dress to wear tatreez. You could just put it on your jacket and carry it with you or wear it at night when it’s chilly, you know? So that was sort of the idea.”

Inclusivity is at the core of Anat’s values.

“All the garments that we make are meant to be worn by (both) genders. It’s all unisex. So if you look at our jackets you’ll see they’re not very tight-fitting, they’re oversized, they’re loose, and they’re very comfortable. That’s because we wanted everyone, like all sizes plus both men and women to be able to wear them without feeling restricted or uncomfortable.”

Shawa elaborated on how being a politically driven brand is embedded into the core of Anat International, even in as far as the production and distribution process.

“I do believe that with fashion, politics always intersect, and not only because saying ‘Palestine’ or ‘Palestinian’ is political, but also because if you look at the process of us trying to ship our garments out of Gaza, that’s all politics. There’s so much politics that are just embedded in that process. You have to navigate checkpoints and different import costs just because you’re shipping from a place like Gaza. So that gets into it as well.”

Anat prides itself on being an ethically sourced slow-fashion brand, but this has not come without its own unique set of struggles. Due to the nature of living in a climate as unstable as that of Gaza, they cannot afford the same luxuries as other brands. Aspects as simple as ordering custom buttons remain unattainable to the brand, as they are forced to think of creative solutions when pushed into such corners.

Regarding this, Shawa stated, “Not only do we have to work with what we have, but we also need to convey to customers that because we’re working under such (pressure), like, this is a different space to work in.”

She added: “The industry in Gaza isn’t like working in Italy, you’re not going to get the perfect garment every single time. They’re not all going to look the (exact) same. There will be subtle differences, especially because the embroidery is handmade.”

But she does not view this aspect of her brand as being to its detriment, but rather as something that sets it apart from fast-fashion brands. “I think it makes it more beautiful because if we’re operating in an imperfect space, then it only makes sense to have slightly imperfect products. I think it challenges people’s perceptions of perfection, and what it means to have something perfect or not.”

Shawa hopes to use Anat to foster a community-driven enterprise that creates a strong sense of community for Palestinian activists, creators, artists, and customers alike/

“Eventually, as we grow more, I really want (Anat) to be a platform and a space where I could have specific sections devoted to highlighting different artists and creatives who are Palestinian, whether they live in Palestine or abroad. I really want it to be eventually a platform where I could bring people in and highlight their work through using my social media and my website,” she explained.

The message they hope to spread through both their work and by highlighting the works of others is that “Palestine should not be your charity project. … It shouldn’t be your charity case, your donation case. It’s time that we start seeing real efforts at liberation and people, different people, putting pressure on their governments, putting pressure on their friends, circles, and family when it comes to Palestine. That’s the urgent need right now.”

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