An Interview with Jordan Nassar
Since establishing ADISH, we have been working closely with world-renowned Palestinian-American embroidery artist Jordan Nassar. Every season, Jordan and the ADISH team try to find new ways to honor ancient crafts while still innovating and originating new creations....
Since establishing ADISH, we have been working closely with world-renowned Palestinian-American embroidery artist Jordan Nassar. Every season, Jordan and the ADISH team try to find new ways to honor ancient crafts while still innovating and originating new creations.
For our Fall-Winter '21 Collection, titled 'Al Nasij', we have started to experiment with new Tatreez (Palestinian embroidery) patterns designed by Jordan. These new patterns are not strictly traditional but rather are a combination of several classical patterns put that together to create something entirely new. Some of the patterns include the 'Carnation' (Branch) pattern, originating from the Ramallah area, or the 'Sarou' (Cypress tree) Pattern that originates from the Hebron and Yafa regions in occupied Palestine.
With those patterns in mind, we went on to create our 'Makhlut' (Arabic for 'Mixed') Jacket and Trousers Set. Our 'Makhlut' set features a symmetric layout of Jordan Nassar's unique Tatreez patterns designed for this season. As the demand for the set is growing, we decided to offer our customers another opportunity to order the set in black. We've also added two new colorways — 'Terra Cotta' and 'Lavender'.
Upon the release of the new "Makhlut" pieces, we asked our friend Perah Shazar, to sit with Jordan Nassar for a conversation about the creative process behind the collection, as well as about his stands, views, and outtakes on the climate of his continuous collaboration with ADISH.
— As a diaspora Palestinian raised in the US, your personal and artistic appeal and connection to the art of Tatreez are more apparent than the connection you formed with the Adish brand. Can you shed more light on what initially brought you to collaborate and later create a partnership with ADISH?
My collaboration with ADISH came about organically; one thing just led to another. When I first met Amit and Eyal, we hit it off, and I appreciated their interest in learning more about Tatreez and Palestinian crafts. I was also interested in getting to know Israelis who were interested in working in support of Palestinian freedom and rights. Honestly, one thing led to another — first, we went to Beit Jala together and met the craftswomen, then we did a capsule collection together, then I started advising on art direction, and then I became the artistic director. It just evolved naturally.
- Adish means apathetic in Hebrew. The brand was established by two Israelis who set the goal of combating apathy through fashion. You, as a Palestinian, even with the perks of living in NYC, come face to face with the apathy Israelis often have toward human rights violations committed in their name. What was your vision when you first connected with ADISH, and do you believe that vision will one day be realized?
That kind of apathy is part of life. There are so many injustices in the world; we all live with versions of this. On the one hand, it's understandable; not everyone will care about everything that is wrong in the world at all times. But at the same time, it's important that we do try to pull each other out of that apathy, and I believe there are people in the world and moments in life when you can make it easier for others to do something constructive, to facilitate some action and change. A very simple example is that if you set up a fundraiser, you make it easier for someone to support others. You're making something people want to buy, and the money goes where it's needed. I think as ADISH, we are constantly learning, trying different things, and figuring out what else we can do, how we can do more. I do think the world is better off with ADISH in it, even though it is complicated sometimes.
— Do you see your work with the ADISH brand as a way to counter-cultural erasure?
I think that appreciating other cultures is always a good thing. But in this case, I think it's essential that ADISH, is helping to bring respect and understanding of Palestinian culture to fellow Israelis. People might think it's not a big deal, but in Israel, you don't hear the word Palestine or Palestinian often. Just bringing attention to Palestinians' existence is doing something to counter that erasure, yes. It's not everything, and it's not going to end the injustices, but it's something.
— Any commercial initiative relying on an indigenous craft might face criticism. What is your stance on the sensitive issues this criticism addresses?
The way I see things, Israelis and Americans have a major advantage. We are connected to the global marketplace that indigenous Palestinians have a much harder time accessing. This is, of course, due primarily to restrictions imposed upon them by the Israeli occupation and the Israeli government that is largely funded by the United States. In a perfect world, Palestinians would be able to create whatever they want and interact with the international public and succeed in doing so, but this isn't our reality currently. So the way I see it, if we Israelis and Americans can be a conduit, a path through which Palestinians can engage with that marketplace — then we're using that privilege for good. We're bringing business to Palestinians and exporting their skills and appreciation of Palestinian culture around the world. Of course, it is essential that we give credit and attention to the Palestinian craftspeople where it is due, and that is indeed central to us at ADISH.
— As a Palestinian, do you feel like you serve a higher purpose by teaming up with the brand's Israeli partners?
No. As I said before, in a perfect world this would be an entirely Palestinian brand. But I'm a realist, and the fact of the matter is that Israelis have so much privilege in Israel, as do Americans, and I believe that the right thing to do is to use those privileges for good rather than pretend they're not there. It also should be mentioned that ADISH isn't just our nationalities and ethnicities — ADISH is a product of Amit, Eyal, Qussay, and Jordan, of our specific creative ideas and aesthetics as individuals. So it's not taking these designs away from an imaginary Palestinian-only brand. The designs we make wouldn't exist without these four people involved. I will also say, aside from my work with ADISH, that it is important to me to do what I can to help push the world towards lessening the unfair advantages that Americans and Israelis have over Palestinians and Arabs in general, but I believe that one can and should do everything possible in short, and long-term, on both micro and macro levels. You don't have to choose between a band-aid and a cure; use the band-aid in the meantime while working on the cure for the future.
— What are your main challenges as a Palestinian in a commercial partnership with Israelis?
For me, the main challenge is people assuming the worst about ADISH. We spend so much time arguing about this. It saddens me that we live in a world where the worst is always assumed. We didn't create the world or this situation, but we, the four of us at ADISH, were all born into it and are doing what we can with who we are. In an effort to create beautiful things, to reduce harm, to help others, and to live the lives we want to live.
— There is a repetitive element of symmetry in the Tatreez patterns of the new 'Al Nasij' collection; can you speak more about this?
My inspiration for the Al Nasij collection was from traditional tattoos as well as traditional rugs and weaving. That kind of symmetry is ubiquitous in both. I liked the idea of adorning the body with these symbols, rather than thinking of it as decorating the shirt or pants.
— In traditional Tatreez, every shape symbolizes something; what do the patterns you used in the Makhlut items signify?
For the Makhlut pieces, I started with very recognizable Palestinian embroidery symbols, but then I altered them, making outlines of those shapes rather than the fully colored-in versions you would see in traditional embroidery. Next, for many of them, I rotated and multiplied the patterns, turning them into kind of stars or crosses, sigils or emblems. I can't explain every thought in the creative process, but one thing led to another, and I arrived at these designs.
— Would you like to send a message to the readers of this entry?
I would love to remind everyone that when it comes to activism, the central tenet should be harm reduction. Whether it's animal rights or climate change, or Palestinian liberation, I think people often get wrapped up in animosity and arguing with people who actually are on the same side, accusing each other of mistakes or impurities, nitpicking each other's approaches and way of living. I think we lose sight of the big picture and forget that the central element should be harm reduction. Harm reduction. Not who's right or wrong, not who did what, not thinking in black and white, not fighting for a perfect world that can never be. It's about reducing the harm done to others. I think if we focus on that, the environment around these issues — on the internet and in real life — will be so much more constructive and productive.