Creative Tracks Series - Beyond the platform : Eliza Collin

Eliza, a fashion designer from the UK, traveled to Beit Ummar to organise a summer camp with Palestinian children and women. She aims to develop the Palestinian economy with embroidery activities.
What is your professional background ?
I am a fashion designer and I work as a freelance designer, maker and couturier in art and fashion. I am also Head Pattern Cutter at Art School-London currently being shown with Fashion East.
What is your professional venture ?
At Samak Bilab Bi Delo we propose to initiate a self sustaining company in Beit Ummar (Palestine) which combines workshops for children, work for women, support for local industry and development and survival of traditional techniques. Using the inspiration we gather from the women’s storytelling and the children’s summer camp. The project will develop in three stages beginning with a 2 weeks children's summer camp in Beit Ummar, using the outcomes of the workshops and art classes to inspire the development of performances and a fashion collection produced in the Hebron region. We will invest any profits from the clothing back into the Women’s Centre, with the aim of creating a structure in which to continue the summer camps and direct any earnings from the clothes back to the artisans involved in the creation of the pieces, and to support the West Bank’s dwindling textiles industry.
How and why did you start your cultural venture ?
We started the project with my colleague Julie, who works at Ensemble 209 in Tel Aviv. They run projects in Beit Ummar with the Tanweer center. When Julie went to visit Beit Ummar where she met Muna, they discussed about what to do to help with the economy. At the same time she was hearing a lot of different stories about children who needed creatives activities and about women who did not have work although they were very educated (they were supposed to get married and have children after university and not pursue a professional career). Muna and Julie kept on talking about the days when women were making money through embroidery and their artistic skills. Julie approached me because I am a fashion designer and asked me if I had any ideas on how to work with the artisans’ skills and take part in the local economy. We went on a research trip in Beit Ummar to spend time talking with people and figuring out the best methodology.
What impacts do you anticipate in the Palestinian society?
We are looking for independent economy for women. The thing with embroidery is that many NGO’s don’t pay women directly for their work, it is more like a pay group and the money goes to the community. So we wanted to pay directly people who worked for us. We also wanted to include women from the Jordan valley particularly within a group called Safi Crafts who are growing Indigo to dye. The idea was that women from Beit Ummar would go there and women from Jordan would come to Palestine and their would be a skills swap. This exchange on a very local level could be very beneficial for these two groups because there are tensions between Palestinians and Jordanians in this area.
Moreover through the Tanweer center and Masar Ibrahim, which is a trail that goes through Palestine, the programme aims to give training to women to become walking guides so that women get out of home. Embroidery gives work to women but it doesn’t get them out of their home. This walking guide project strives to give women the chance to have work outside their home.
What is the economical approach ?
At the moment we are making enough for an exhibition and we want to be able to exhibit the work in Ramallah, in London and eventually elsewhere internationally. We will use it as a platform to show to the fashion industry that there is production in Palestine. We want to sell pieces internationally, but we are having conversation to try to sell it locally as well. Embroidery is becoming very expensive so women who produce it cannot afford it. But until we finish the final pieces it is difficult to know where they will sold. We are discussing with the embroiderers, the dyers,
the factories on what the market price will be. It will be very interesting to try to negotiate where we can fix the price because we would like it to be affordable for the women who are the producers.
What are the next steps for the development of your project ?
We are in touch with Safi Craft in Jordan to have dye samples made and talking about colours and materials we can use and how much it will cost. We are also in contact with the textile manufacturer in Hebron who is providing the cloth. And we are designing collectively the pieces. At the same time, we are looking for funders who support Euro-Arab cultural exchange, British Art Council and travel grants.
Crafts, Design, Fashion and textiles

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