Gaza’s creative community continues to flourish despite the endless setbacks they face in their everyday lives. It would not be appropriate to get into today’s topic without pointing out the obvious — Israel’s most recent attack on Gaza killed 44 Palestinians, 15 of whom were children. It also further ravaged Gaza’s economy and prevented fuel deliveries, stopping production at Gaza’s power plant. However, despite these attacks on Gaza, a city under siege, Khitan is on a mission to empower the creative youth of the Strip through fashion.

Khitan was founded in 2019 and implemented by the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) under the Creative Palestine label through funding provided by the Government of Japan. Khitan can be best described as a hub and a brand that attempts  to shape the future of fashion through the expression of Palestinian heritage. It acts as a hub through its two Creative Fashion Design Centers, located in Jenin and Gaza, both of which are equipped with facilities that allow for design, prototypes and production.

Furthermore, the hub works as a training platform and an accelerator for entrepreneurs and designers alike. Today, Khitan encourages young Palestinian designers to channel their creativity into new visions for the Palestinian fashion industry through their work with local producers, to not only update their collections, but to create linkages within the local fashion ecosystem. Khitan is also a fashion brand inspired by “a bold reinterpretation of Palestinian fashion heritage and contemporary casual wear. [It] is aimed at energizing Palestine’s community of fashion enthusiasts through new imaginative outfits combining high impact, effortless utility, and perfect fit,” they state in a press release.

“HAYAT” and “Mawj”

“Khitan Gaza is an opportunity to stimulate the visionary, out of the box creativity of the next generation of fashion designers from the Strip”, states Ahmed ElFarra, UNIDO Palestine’s Head of Programme Office. “Implemented by UNIDO with funds from the Government of Japan and in partnership with the Ministry of National Economy and in cooperation with the Gaza Federation of Textile Industries, Khitan Gaza has put together 12 young designers and has left the field open to experimentation. Coached by UNIDO international consultants and working hand in hand with local garment companies, their untapped potential has found a way to emerge, so that their creativity can reach the markets and generate shared prosperity for the Gaza fashion community”, continued ElFarra.

Two “Made in Gaza” collections were released earlier this month — an ode to the resilience and creative power of the Strip, the collections are called “Hayat”, the Arabic for life, and “Mawj”, waves. Both find inspiration from the “living environment that surrounds the designers – the sea, the natural ecosystem, as well as daily life – and reinterpret it through free association of ideas, bold shapes, and deconstructed silhouettes,” according to the statement.

Hayat is a tribute to the connection young Palestinian designers have to their land, playing with different elements to deconstruct and redefine outfits through heterogeneous textiles, often overcoming the unavailability of materials through an attitude motivated by resilience. Mawj, on the other hand, is a knitting collection and takes its inspiration from the sea.

From Gaza’s beaches to all living things that inhabit its ecosystem, new contemporary garments are re-imagined through the craft of knitting. Each garment is thought of as a statement piece through asymmetries and overlapping textiles, combining both artisanal and industrial techniques. Much like the Hayat collection, Mawj incorporates different materials to overcome the lack of textiles and transforms them, creating an opportunity for creation and innovation.

New markets

Twelve designers based in Gaza were inspired by their experiences in life and their memories of their hometown, turning the emotions and mixed feelings of uncertainty, happiness and hope into wearable expressions. “Challenges are a constant part of life in Gaza. Yet, the will to overcome them is often turned into motivation. Very much attached to their birthplace, Khitan’s designers have great expectations for their country, Palestine, and want to use their skills to reinterpret Palestinian fashion and bring it to new markets. Through design, they show what creation means, and give back their unique twist, which cannot be but the Gaza one,” they state in a press release.

Today, Khitan brings together a network of Gazan businesses in the garment and textiles industries. “The garment and textile industry in Gaza is flourishing. More than 300 factories employ thousands of skilled laborers. In addition, many factories are offering sewing services to fulfil their clients’ needs. Huge opportunities are available to be taken,” according to the statement. Through Khitan, both the local industries as well as the creative youth of the Strip are able to access new markets, with tailored, strategic interventions aimed at strengthening their sustainable development in addition to helping them expand their businesses.

Direction & Supervision: Ahmed ELFARRA Content: Giulia ZAPPA
Fashion Consultant: Missak HAJIAVEDIKIAN Technical Consultant: Hani MOURAD Communication Consultant: Imke PLINTA UNIDO Team: Emad ALMASRI, Heba ALSARRAJ, Perin SHANTI
Illustration: Rozza Designs Photography: Fadi DAHABREH Make-up artist: Nicole ADDOUB Stylist: Sharon Rose BENSON Models: Sharon Rose BENSON, Baha ABDAWI, Zeinab JAWABREH
KHITAN Gaza has been implemented by UNIDO in partnership with the Ministry of National Economy and in cooperation with the Palestinian Federation of Garment, Textile and Leather Industries with funds generously provided by the Government of Japan.