Fashion Interview Interview

Having grown up in the shadow of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Tel Aviv-based designers Amit Luzon and Eyal Eliyahu wanted to create an ethical brand that connected the two countries, seeing fashion as a collaborative tool for peace-building.

Cue ADISH, a unisex brand inspired by the artistry, craftsmanship and culture of the Middle East. While all garments are made in Israel, the embroidery is handcrafted in the Palestinian territory in collaboration with over thirty Palestinian women embroiderers living in the West Bank. The result? The pair’s debut collection, We Made You, a brilliant mix of contemporary high-end streetwear and traditional Middle Eastern craft, emphasised by the lookbook imagery featured here. Shot by Alon Shastel, the series took place in Jisr az-Zarqa, the last remaining all-Arab village on the coast of Israel and one of the poorest communities in the country – bringing light to the power of merging old and new in a pure Middle Eastern environment.

We spoke to Amit about establishing a label, the power of fashion and the fascinating process behind the origins of the brand’s first collection.

Alessandro Esculapio: Can you tell us a bit about your background and how you first got interested in fashion?
Amit Luzon: Eyal and I met just before high school through mutual friends. We both grew up just outside of Tel Aviv,  and we bonded over our love of fashion and the arts. After our mandatory army service, we knew we wanted to start something. Eyal had been working as a store manager at a fashion boutique, and that was the real catalyst for us. We wanted to start something of our own, that reflected our interests, and was deeply authentic to the places we come from. Neither of us had formal training in fashion, but we knew our idea was powerful. At first, we were throwing ideas around in long overnight sessions after work. A few months later we got our own studio, quit our old jobs, and began working on ADISH full-time.

Alessandro: ADISH is a socially conscious high-end streetwear brand. How did the idea of the label come about?
Amit: We were interested in using fashion as a medium to change things, specifically in our region, which is kind of a total mess. So when we started to work on the project, our first thought was that there are a lot traditional arts and crafts in the Middle East that no one ever brings to a wider audience in a contemporary way. The brand’s name is the Hebrew word for ‘apathetic’ or ‘indifferent,’ which we think is a quality that helps when you live in this crazy area, though in our case we use in a sarcastic way. For us it means: “Don’t pay attention to the empty words of politicians, but also try to do things that can really change the situation here.”

Alessandro: Talk us through your SS18 collection We Made You.
Amit: For our SS18 we combined traditional Palestinian hand embroidery with contemporary streetwear shapes. The collection was inspired mostly by the Palestinian women that we worked with during the process. These women have been shouldering the responsibility of household work and have been providing their communities with support and inspiration, and still don’t get proper recognition. So it was important to us to work with them to find a way to translate patterns and designs which have been passed down in their villages and families. The rose patterns, for instance, have been passed down the generations in a village called Beit Umar for over 150 years. We worked with them on everything. We asked them about the history of the patterns and followed their preferences and guidance. They said it was one of the first times someone asked them these questions.

Alessandro: As you mentioned, the collection features traditional embroidery work created in collaboration with Palestinian embroiderers as well as New York-based textile artist Jordan Nassar. What was it like to work with them?
Amit: With the embroiderers, we wanted it to be clear that we intended to work with them and that they were not working for us. Hand embroidery plays a major role in Palestinian cultural heritage, so they were afraid that we would take the patterns and produce them with machines instead. As a result, we decided that each piece of work on our garments would be hand-made by one of these women. They usually make pillow cases, scarves and dresses in fabrics that are easy to embroider on, so after we chose the patterns we selected the fabrics together and did several tests on each fabric. The process took over a year. As for Jordan, we met him while he was doing an artist residency in Israel. I DMed him on Instagram, and we ended up going over to his studio to see his work. He works with Palestinian embroidery, so he helped us with the design and with the translation of this kind of embroidery onto our garments. Together we experimented with size, shape and colour to create something new which still incorporates traditional elements.

“Unfortunately many companies here suffered from the relocation of most textile production facilities abroad, mainly to the Far East, so supporting local craftsmanship is really important to us and it is a crucial element of our brand identity. “

Alessandro: You highlight ethical values such as local production in your work. Why is that important to you?
Amit: We strive to produce most of our items in small, safe factories in Israel and Palestine. Unfortunately many companies here suffered from the relocation of most textile production facilities abroad, mainly to the Far East, so supporting local craftsmanship is really important to us and it is a crucial element of our brand identity. The impact you can have at a local level is also really inspiring, even for a small label like ADISH. For our SS18, we managed to employ more than thirty Palestinian women for instance. Being in the middle of the conflict here, it’s really hard to feel like you can actually make a difference or change anything. At ADISH we are doing our part by bringing attention to traditional Palestinian craft while also making a difference in the lives of Palestinians living in the West Bank.

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