Forever inspired by the unsung hero, Tel Aviv-based fashion brand ADISH expertly shines light on the way in which fashion can spark vital conversations and bring about change. Challenging our conception of society and fashion’s place within it, the quirky garments are distinct, intriguing and, more importantly, accessible yet politically charged. Their S/S19 collection, ‘Area A’ questions the restrictions imposed on taxi drivers by the Palestinian Authorities and Israeli Government in the West Bank. Our curiosity sparked by their way of drawing into the sun one of the many social issues instigated by a conflict so very near to the company’s heart, we caught up with the designers to learn a little more.
Conflicts in the Middle East are an ongoing and ever-present reality. How are your latest collections inspired by such conflicts?
Living in Israel, living in Palestine, living abroad as an Israeli or a Palestinian descendant—this conflict is just a fact of life, and is something that all of us at ADISH have to live with. Living with it means thinking about it, folding it into what guides your actions, not letting it completely take precedence over what you want to do with your life, but recognizing that it has a role in almost everything you do. So when we set out to make a fashion brand, with the goal of making beautiful, cool, wearable clothing, the conflict is with us, along for the ride, and we can’t help but address it. Being ‘inspired’ isn’t the way I’d put it; I think that inspiration is positive and implies it’s a good thing. What it comes down to is that we can’t help but express our views on the conflict and work towards peace, even in the little things we do that seem unrelated, because the conflict is a part of who we are. So when we make a fashion brand, the conflict is wrapped up in it.
While addressing and questioning important, pressing issues, the collections maintain and project positivity in the face of adversity. How is this achieved and how important is such positivity to the outcome of your work?
This is largely a result of who the ADISH team members are. We all are living in this impossible situation and we want it to end somehow, peacefully. We are very aware of the small things, the good things that are easy to do for each other: kindness, respect, valuing each other’s perspectives and cultures. So we can’t help but be positive, because we believe that these simple respectful conversations and small acts of kindness are the foundation for changing the bigger issues. This positivity is important for us. It is also important because the conflict is something that many people around the world assume to be a simple choice between “right and wrong”. We find it imperative to show to those, who aren’t directly involved, that it’s an unimaginatively complex and nuanced situation. Shining light on Israelis that want to work with Palestinians, and vice versa. ADISH challenges those, who are quick to “choose a side”.
What inspired your S/S19 collection and how does it continue your tradition of placing the unsung hero on a pedestal? How does the collection question and bring to the conversation the current political climate surrounding those in the West Bank?
The inspiration behind the S/S19 collection is Palestinian taxi drivers from the West Bank. An unlikely source of style, it seems, but upon deeper investigation it turns the conversation to the subject of freedom—specifically an often-overlooked freedom, the Freedom of Movement. With the S/S19 collection, ADISH aims to bring up this conversation, calling the international community’s attention to this reality, while appreciating the look and feel of a taxi driver’s lifestyle in Palestine.
In this vein, how can the language of fashion be used to promote positivity, exchange and the ‘dream of dialogue’ within such an environment?
I believe it’s actually something that people, even those who work in fashion, wouldn’t expect. I think the strongest way in which ADISH is using fashion to promote positivity and exchange is simply by giving an example. It’s not what we say with each collection specifically. It’s just the fact that this team is two Israelis, two Palestinians, and one Palestinian-American, all working together, being creative together, respecting each other and loving each other. This is such a powerful promotion of positivity and exchange.
Regarding the taxi drivers—that unsung hero—specifically, what issues are faced by these individuals within ‘Area A’?
The collection, entitled “Area A”, refers to the part of the West Bank that is supposed to be* administered by the Palestinian Authority, a region that is surrounded by walls or heavily patrolled borders (*we say ‘supposed to be” here, because it is still largely controlled by Israel). Most of the people from “Area A”, which includes major cities like Ramallah and Nablus, cannot leave or enter without receiving permission from the Israeli government. Those from “Area B”, which includes small pockets around Bethlehem and Jerusalem, can only travel to Area A and B. Those from “Area C”, which includes Jerusalem, are effectively in Israel and can travel to Area A, B, C, and Tel Aviv. This is where taxi drivers come in: to be an effective Palestinian taxi driver, you don’t just need a car and a license; you need the freedom of movement given only those born in “Area C”.
How does their look express the survival battle endured by those within ‘Area A’ and how is this survival battle reflected within the collection?
I don’t think their look relates to survival specifically. They do have a particular look that we tried to capture, or at least be inspired by, for this collection. As you can imagine, there’s an emphasis on comfort, sportiness, durability, functionality. But by taking their style as a reference for this collection, we get to tell their story, which in some way, we hope, contributes to their survival. The conflict is very much about survival for many people from all walks of life, on both sides. Trying to survive, and to keep your personal identity, hopes and dreams intact, while living in this conflict.
To what extent can fashion be used as a vehicle to not only bring issues and ideas to the conversation, but also, to bring about change?
When it comes down to it, a brand is a business, and business, especially in places like Palestine, can be very empowering. Through ADISH and our use of Palestinian handmade embroidery as one of the production tools, we end up employing over 50 Palestinian women, who of course choose to be involved with this brand voluntarily. We also work with factories in the West Bank, in addition to factories in Israel, for some of the cutting and sewing of the garments. This induces change, we believe, in a very direct way. Giving someone financial stability, while doing something that shows them that the “other side” respects them and their cultural heritage. We believe that this is among the first steps in peace, because these women’s families, their children, see them working with Israelis, which may lead them to question any assumptions they formerly had. In the same way, our Israeli friends and families see us working with Palestinians and, hopefully, they too will second-guess their prejudices. The same goes for people in Europe, East Asia, America, and so on. They might not know about the conflict and assume that all Palestinians and Israelis hate each other—but seeing us, they’ll witness an example that will hopefully cause them to learn more about the conflict and avoid uninformed conclusions.