Jerusalem may not traditionally be one of the fashion world's epicentres, but thanks to label Trashy Clothing, that might have to be rethought.
Founded in occupied East Jerusalem in 2017 by fashion designer Shukri Lawrence, Trashy Clothing (written tRASHY) aims to offer pieces that speak of Arab and Palestinian identity. Having also infused them with a heavy dose of club-kitsch, Lawrence wants to "reclaim what is considered different, cheap and trashy in modern culture".
“It came from a missing Palestinian voice in mainstream pop culture,” explains Lawrence. “The brand serves as a representation of Palestine and the Middle East in fashion by highlighting the subcultures and opening discussions with every collection.”
In plain terms, this means playing on stereotypes to highlight discriminatory views. In early pieces this consisted of writing the logos of major international companies in Arabic, to help break down the stigma attached to the language.
In 2018, as part of Berlin Fashion Week, the brand delivered a clubwear collection decorated with prints of mesh fencing and barbed wire, and had models wearing crude mesh ghutras. As part of its show, it also built a wall across the venue, to echo the wall that once divided Berlin, and the one that still divides Palestinian land.
"The brand operates in an untraditional manner that serves as an answer to what the future of Middle Eastern fashion looks like. We see fashion as a storytelling experience, not only garment creation," says Lawrence.
A collaboration between four team members, founder Lawrence, Omar Braika, Reem Kawasmi and Luai Al-Shuaibi, the brand was all set to showcase its autumn / winter 2020 collection in Europe when the pandemic struck.
With the runway show cancelled, and Lawrence stranded in Jordan when international flights were grounded, the brand quickly realised that the next logical step was to take everything online.
Demonstrating digital agility that should inspire major fashion houses, the Trashy Clothing team quickly assembled brands, artists, musicians and creatives, and by May, they had launched Cyber Fashion Week.
Running from May 26 to 31, the virtual event brought together participants from as far afield as Iceland, Hong Kong, Jordan, New York and Tehran, in what it dubbed the "crossroads and intersections of fashion, music, photography, art and performance".
To bolster a sense of involvement (and thanks to some clever software), Trashy customers were able to get involved by uploading scans of themselves wearing items of Trashy clothing, which in turn were remade into digitally animated avatars that walked the virtual runway.
Each day of the event featured two fashion shows, a musical performance and a play, all streamed live, and ended with a virtual after-party presented by online Berlin club Krisen, Sydney’s Club Immaterial and more.
Heralded a global success (and even picked up by London's i-D magazine) there are now plans for a second Cyber Fashion Week in September, which will ideally attract more brands.
And Lawrence has more big plans for the label. The most recent pieces posted on social media are emblazoned with Arabic because, as Lawrence explains: "As the brand aims to bring Palestine and the Middle East into mainstream pop culture, it is important to include our culture and language in our collections and garments we produce.
"To see international customers and artists support the brand and represent the message in their countries is beautiful.”
Best of all, the brand is pleasingly uncompromising about tackling difficult topics head on. Informed and motivated, the team behind the clothes are eager to reach as wide an audience as possible with its messages.
“We design for an unapologetic, politically aware, pop culture enthusiast, campy and rebellious person.”