Eyal Eliyahu (left) and Amit Luzon (right). The two founders of ADISH.

Fashion for a (real) cause

Meet ADISH, the Israeli streetwear label that is focuses on unity, collaboration and breaking down frontiers

Whether it was the entire Council of Fashion Designers of America supporting Planned Parenthood, designers having models walk through refugee tents or wearing pink pussy hats at their shows, in the last years we have seen an entire feminist-T-shirt movement, Trump-influenced memorabilia en masse, a pro-EU hoodie from Vetements and many, many more examples of politically motivated fashion. More often than not, in the form of the slogan T-shirt, which always has been designers favourite voice, when it comes to shine a spotlight on important issues.

But looking at the current news: does this really make a better world? Well, striving to improve our closet awareness may be a first step, but Amit Luzon and Eyal Eliyahu, the Israeli creative duo behind the Tel-Aviv based brand ADISH take this approach even further. By fusing traditional Middle Eastern embroidery techniques with high-fashion streetwear they hope their handmade collections will not only stimulate a new discussion on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, but also provide well-paid jobs to Palestinian women.

Achtung Digital spoke to founder Amit Luzon about the power of fashion and the origins behind the brand’s collections.

Beside the political drive, there is also an emphasis in ADISH’s aesthetic that highlights the importance of the youth.

AD: Let’s talk a little bit about the idea of creating ADISH. What was your initial thought?

Amit Luzon: My partner and I always wanted to start a business of our own after school. We took some time off and where traveling a lot, that was when we realised, that there is no fashion brand that really represents the culture from the Middle East and Israel. And since we were always fascinated by street culture we thought: why don’t we do a streetwear label, that involves craftsmanship from the Middle East.

So, at the beginning you didn’t think about a label that is designing towards peace?

Not at all. It was more or less a coincidence. We knew about Palestinian techniques and craftsmanship, but we didn’t know how to approach these people. A friend of the family introduced us to a non-profit organisation, that has been working with a group of Palestinian embroidery ladies. And now we have more than 60 ladies who work with us and a Palestinian partner that takes care of the production and the facilities there.

Are you specialised in Palestinian embroidery?

Our brand is not only about Palestinian embroidery. For the next fall/ winter collection 2019, we are working with Bedouins embroidery from the South of Israel, the Negev Desert. We would like to combine all different kind of craftsmanship roots from the area, that’s the main idea of the brand: showing that the Middle East is not only about conflicts, but that people are doing amazing art here.

Adish, the Hebrew word for apathetic or indifferent, is using streetwear to make cross-cultural connections with Palestine.

How difficult is it to work with a production site in Palestine for you as Israelis?

There are some places where we can meet our partner in Palestine, but it’s really difficult. We really can’t visit the places where the ladies are working from. Our embroiders and factories are all located in area A and area B, so in order to move and oversee the production and develop the collection we can’t really go to their sites, so we have to use taxis.

If I’m correct, your current collection, titled “Area A”, is inspired by these taxis.

For Palestinian taxi drivers in order to work, it is essential not only to have a driver license but also to be born in area C. The Palestinian territories are divided into three parts: area A, area B and area C. Area A is controlled by the Palestinians. Area B is controlled by the Palestinian authority and Israel. Israelis can’t really go to both of them and Palestinians born in area A or B can’t really go outside their areas. Area C is controlled by the Israelis. So, for Palestinians to be privileged, means being born in area C, because then you can go to all areas. This is what the collection was inspired by, their freedom of movement.

What made you decide on this multi-national vision for ADISH? Why the, let’s say, somehow political drive?

We didn’t had any political intention at the beginning, but when we start working with the Palestinian women more closely, it became more and more our need, even so many creatives in Israel told us we would never succeed if our brand had a political voice. These are the people we are working with, without them the collection and the brand wouldn’t exist. We need to do our best to highlight their stories and way of life.

Because Adish is committed to provide Palestinian women with work, all of the embroideries are done by hand, one-by-one.

Generally speaking, what do you think: how political can fashion get? Can it have any impact?

Fashion can be very political. For example, we, ADISH, even as a really small brand, have a huge impact on the life of 60 Palestinian women we are working with. Without us, they won’t go to work and won’t have any income. It’s meaningful. And we have a responsibility for them as well, we can’t just stop with what we are doing.

Quite a responsibility for your age. You are both pretty young.

We are both 25. Our Palestinian partner and Jordan Nassar, a Palestinian-American artist we are working with, are 32.

I was wondering, do you see any changes in how the younger generation is dealing with the Palestine-Israel conflict?

 I feel like a lot of Israelis at my age want a change, but most of them are not doing anything meaningful in order to change it. I’m not saying that everyone needs to do something like we are doing here, to have an independent business working with Palestinians. I just mean, instead of going to a protest in Tel Aviv that is 5 minutes from your house, why not go to area C near Jerusalem, which is also just 30 minutes away, and meet some Palestinians for coffee and start a personal relationship. It is important that people understand that Palestine is only 40 minutes away from us. You need to do something real to change things, not just empty words.