09 Jun 2017
Nablus, Palestine
Sustainable Textiles and Clothing

A stable, governmental job is often praised and regarded as a safety net. For artists, however, routine serves no purpose and brings forth a dull output. As such, Aisha Dweikat took upon herself the role of being an avant-garde, ditching a repetitive drill and fully dedicating her talent towards serving the environment and her Nablus community.

Set out to stand out whilst employing the Palestinian heritage for her designs, Dweikat joined a number of craft workshops. She was later nominated to design a set of games for the Jenin Refugee Camp, northern the West Bank. “These games constituted a challenge since they were more educational than entertaining,” Dweikat said.

Palestinian women’s presence in the labor market is known to be the lowest in the region. Dweikat, however, did not hold back.

A matter of chance?

In Jenin Refugee Camp, where inhabitants are often restricted to accessing scrap materials, Dweikat developed the idea to incorporate leftover elements in her own designs. “There were a number of resources to sustain my idea, as I passed by textile factories on a daily basis,” Dweikat said.

“This further prompted me to use materials such as wood, sponge, and fabrics to kick off my accessories line,” she added. Dweikat’s focus revolved around reviving and sustaining the Palestinian heritage.

“Aisha participated in the UNIDO organized Design Hub workshops under the Creative Palestine initiative being part of the Creative Mediterranean Program,” said National Program Coordinator at Creative Palestine by the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO), Ahmed El Farra. “The several creative workshops implanted collaboration among workshops/craftspeople, designers, university students and graduates, and provided a tremendous opportunity to participants to be exposed to new trends, learn new techniques, and get in contact with many professionals working in the handicraft sector.”

Creativity meets minimalism:

Dweikat’s start was not planned for, however, her participation in a program aimed at developing traditional crafts by UNIDO diverted the course towards accessories and jewelry.

“I did use silver for my accessories, however another component I include in my designs is discarded olive wood,” she said. “My design is about environment meeting heritage and I would like it to tell a story.”

Intent on outlining the Palestinian identity throughout her work, Dweikat recycled materials to mirror traditions.

Growth and obstacles:

The initiative set a clientele base between the local community, tourists, and expats. However, labor costs are not enough to sustain a living, and shipping costs are exorbitant to export.

“If it weren’t for the shipping costs, we would be a bigger business than we are at the moment,” says Dweikat.

As for the society, Palestine is still short in awareness. “It can be hard to sell, sometimes. You have something entirely made of recycled material – that can be looked down on in our society and rendered as cheap,” Dweikat referred to the lack of sustainability culture.

“Recycling is a new concept here especially in terms of products and daily use yet it is following a growing trend,” says El Farra. “Aisha Design works in a category that is believed to be well positioned to venture into recycling especially that Aisha is a designer and is well connected to fellow designers and production workshops. “

Strategic self-funding:

“In 2015, I won Best Business Plan for a Recycling Project Award, presented by Dutch NGO, SPARK and Bank of Palestine. Such awards make for funding sources, albeit insufficient to expand,” Dweikat remarked.

Prior to 2015, she relied solely on self-funding through her monthly salary from her work at the refugee camp, as well as the Aisha Design profits. In 2016, Aisha earned a small grant from UN Women keeping her initiative afloat.

El Farra believes that Aisha’s main driver in her business is her continuous learning and creativity as she keeps on looking for new, fresh ideas, developing them into new, compelling designs.

To mirror El Farra’s sentiment, Dweikat’s work looks like a diverse collection of environmental awareness, art, and perseverance, that prospers daily.


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Photos: Courtesy of Aisha Design



Eman is the Switchers' Managing Editor and a long-standing finance and startup ecosystem journalist.Eman El-Sherbiny
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