“Get Palestyled” – that is the motto of a UAE label best known for its handbags decorated with Arabic calligraphy and colourful hand embroidery that is produced by women in refugee camps in Jordan.
Palestyle, previously stocked at stores including Bloomingale’s Dubai and S*uce, has had a quiet few years while undergoing restructuring and rebranding. Now, however, it is back on track for the new year, with a 2017 comeback collection.
“The past year was about restructuring Palestyle in terms of operations and branding,” says Palestyle founder and designer Zeina Abou Chaaban. “This includes a new social media campaign coming up, and the launch of our full-fledged online boutique.
“Lots of work has gone into moving production of the leather handbags to Italy – so Palestyle handbags are made in Italy now, and the embroidery travels from the refugee camps in Jordan to the Italian workshops.”
The brand’s signature clutches are characterised by bold gold plates of Arabic calligraphy – usually circle-shaped and often bordered by a halo of crystals – in the centre of crocodile-textured clutches.
These designs were an instant hit with Middle Eastern customers, and quickly influenced other leather brands. But Abou Chaaban is not one to complain about such imitation.
“In the world of fashion, being copied means setting a trend, and being a trendsetter is a success that absolutely thrills us,” she says. “In addition, one part of Palestyle’s DNAs is Arabic heritage, so taking part in spreading our beautiful heritage and seeing it on other brands makes us feel very proud.”
The new collection stays true to Palestyle’s vibrant, glamorous aesthetic, with an elevated, on-trend touch.
In some pieces, see-through panels are added to leather bags decorated with Palestinian embroidery, and smaller, keychain versions of the Arabic calligraphy carvings.
The range includes winged bags and compact box styles, with colourful, layered straps. The clutches take a minimalist approach, trading in its bold, circular calligraphic plates for more dainty, vertical script styles.
Abou Chaaban, an entrepreneur with a social mission to empower and provide work to struggling refugee women, is remarkably humble. Though one of the brand’s highlights was adding actress Eva Longoria to its client list, the businesswoman does not mention this when asked about her proudest moments.
Instead she lists achievements of a more altruistic nature, including opening a library for Syrian refugee children in Jordan’s Al Mafraq City in December.
“The sense of ownership we saw in the eyes of the children for their brand new library was indescribable,” she says.
The designer is also pleased to see the art of hand embroidery being revived among young girls in refugee camps.
“As handmade embroidery is threatened by machine, one of our proud moments was reviving the art of embroidery among the daughters of the refugee women, who before seeing their moms making trendy embroidery for Palestyle did not want to even learn the skill,” she says.
Last year, Palestyle was hired by Coca-Cola to decorate cans with designs based on the brand’s signature embroidery motifs.
“Customising the Coca-Cola cans with embroidery patterns and having more than a million produced was a dream come true,” says Abou Chaaban.
“Through this collaboration we truly highlighted Palestyle’s responsibility in spreading the beautiful art of embroidery, which is part of our rich culture and a source of income to refugee women.”
• Palestyle’s new collection is available at www.palestyle.com. Prices start at Dh2,000.