1G: First of all, please tell us a little bit about yourself and your work.
A: I am not actually representing anyone. I really deserve to be here, you know? I’d like to talk about it from a place where I don’t take inspiration from misery. My current project was inspired by the hunger strike of Palestinian prisoner Hisham Abu Hawash who was in prison without reason. I never experienced being in prison or striking for hunger. My process started when I researched the idea of death. I imagined how his soul was fighting to survive. He is making a statement since he wants to be alive and outside prison. His body is refusing to do that. He’s not eating or drinking anything. I was really inspired by the idea of having a soul and how the experience of being in Palestine is perceived. I started my process by looking at the idea of how the soul is leaving the body, the idea of the hero, the idol, and Palestine- since you have to sacrifice your body when you grow up there. It makes it easy to do that. But I don’t really want to do that. I don’t want to die. I can make it more effective if I am alive. It can have a much bigger effect. Why should I fight? There is no way to fight back under occupation or electrolyzed hyperthyroid military. The only reason that is justifying dying or being a martyr is that it might be your only option. People take this so lightly. My friends, everyone. They just say that they’d die for Palestine. At the same time, you process the idea of why they are actually sacrificing their body under occupation.
I like to describe my work from a critical and analytical lens to my upbringing in Palestine. I want to showcase my idea of culture, community or society. I really like conceptual ideas and transforming them into fashion. I think that’s a very interesting way to look at it. I usually get inspired by daily experiences. That being said, the news is an interesting topic for me. Now, being in London, I really see that my concepts are a lot more selective. The cultural difference between Palestine and London is interesting.
“A lot of people don’t see a point in supporting fashion, especially when you are talking about Palestine. ” – Ayham Hassan
1G: When you crowdfunded for the first time, the internet blew up. How has this changed your life and practice?
A: A lot. It gave me the opportunity to study in a place where I really wanted to study. At Central Saint Martins, I feel like I can actually do something with what I am learning. At first, when you are interested in fashion, you realise how horrible the industry can be. It’s a very competitive place. When I couldn’t afford to go to CSM in the first place, I wanted to seek help from the industry to see if anyone believes in me or what I am saying. That was the most exciting part. It was a huge turning point for me to actually see people engaging with what I am saying. It’s crazy, now I am here and have completed my first year. It was an amazing experience to be crowd-funded by people.
1G: Before Dazed published the article, did you have a lot of funding already on GoFundMe?
A: No. I actually started seeking a private sponsor, but unfortunately, most people don’t support individuals. Also, I came from a fashion background and a lot of people don’t see a point in supporting fashion, especially when you are talking about Palestine. No one did that before. They tend to support art rather than fashion. It was difficult for me to get sponsored for it. But as soon as I started the GoFundMe, it was going well for maybe a month. When I shared it with friends and family, some days went by, and eventually more people caught on to it. It went viral and within two days, I got sponsored. It was really interesting to see how fashion can actually support young designers.
“I see my work as a reflection of my upbringing and as an extension of my culture.” – Ayham Hassan
1G: It’s impressive what the internet can do, right? Being from Palestine, the country is usually overlooked in terms of fashion and creativity. How would you describe the fashion scene in your home country?
A: Compared to London, there is not a lot of a fashion scene. It’s a different place. I think it’s a really interesting take on Arabic society under occupation. There are a lot of choices that people have to take. If you are moving through cities, you will get pointed at and get treated differently based on what you are wearing. They will treat you differently when you wear something different to them since they stop seeing you as an equal. They treat you based on your appearance. They see you as a threat, even if you are not doing anything. This assumption is completely based on how you look. It’s a different take on fashion, but it’s also a place that I associate with the 2000s clothing my mother wore when I grew up. Her headscarf always matched the top, she was so colour-coordinated. You can see the Arabic identity in that.
“Fashion is a powerful medium to explore what identity is.” – Ayham Hassan
1G: What does the Palestinian identity mean to you?
A: I think identity is such a nice notion to explore. You can’t go there without experience. As soon as I got to London, I realised that I am different. I started to look at what my identity and my Palestinian background look like. I understood that through draping, designing the silhouette, looking at the colours that are used or the way I develop my ideas. Fashion is a powerful medium to explore what identity is. The other day, I remember talking with my friend. I said that I was never comfortable being Arabic since I thought that they don’t truly accept me, my femininity, or my interests. It wasn’t only until I came to London that I felt how much I belong there. I mean, I grew up there, and it relates more to me. I feel unique because I grew up there. I remember that before I never referenced Arabic culture in any way. I never looked at it, because I was there. It was normal for me. When I got here, my perspective shifted. I am more invested in my identity. I see my work as a reflection of my upbringing and as an extension of my culture.
“It’s very unfortunate that people feel like it’s difficult to talk about Palestine.” – Ayham Hassan
1G: Palestinian identity is such an interesting topic, yet so less talked about. It’s complex. I only remember the terrible headlines last year; it was either one side or the other. People got scared to speak since a lot of them are very undereducated about the topic.
A: It was very horrible. At the same time, it was interesting to me when I got here, to see how afraid people were to ask me about Palestine. They didn’t want to offend me. Even when my teachers see my concepts, they don’t have my background, so they never have the same take on it. It’s not that they don’t understand it, it’s more like an outsider’s view of my work. In one way or another, we have all experienced that. We have all experienced entrepreneurialism, the occupation or at least the effects of it. I think fashion is more cultural now. It’s more focussed on your identity as a designer rather than what you are perceiving. What are you consuming from this culture and what are you putting forward?