By SETH J. FRANTZMAN
Originally appeared in In Jerusalem and Metro of The Jerusalem Post
‘Gangnam Style,” the catchy South Korean music hit that became an international sensation last year, doesn’t seem like it would go well with models walking a runway. But Smile DJ got away with it most of the way through the last day of Palestine Fashion Week, as he transitioned between fashion lines from Ramallah and Jordan. It was 10 p.m. and the crowd was restless after three hours of watching models and dancers traverse the stage.
For the second year in a row Palestine Fashion Week has opened eyes and attracted a range of designers and models, primarily from the Ramallah area, to a festive gathering at the Movenpick Hotel. The primary driver behind the event, Modelicious modeling school manager Tamer Halabi, was resplendent in a pink shirt and a closely cropped beard. From backstage he attempted to manage a dozen models and a scattering of children, who were also taking part in the show. His mother, wearing a traditional Palestinian embroidered dress, was also on hand: She plays a key role in his other business, Spaloon, a salon that did the hair for the participants.
If it seems like a sort of family affair, it was in some ways. When one of the male models from MG Men’s Wear, a men’s fashion company with branches in Ramallah and Bethlehem, strode down the runway, he received whistles, clapping and catcalls from the crowd, which numbered about 200. “Those are his family members,” a woman whispered to me. In one of the fashion sets by Shtayeh, two sisters participated, both wearing hijab – some of the few women to have their hair covered in the show or the audience.many was the Jordanian-Palestinian designer Intisar Abdo, who is based in Amman. The only designer whose logo was in Arabic, her clothes blended traditional Arab styles with modern fabrics. Some of them had Arabic letters on them and many of the women carried long flowing scarves that they whimsically twirled or held up like wings. Along with the traditional dabke dancers, who performed in front of a giant Palestinian flag on the screen, this provided the only real sense that the show was happening in the Middle East. The other fashion, both men’s, women’s and wedding gowns, was primarily modern and also not original. One of the models, Hala Nashashibi was pleased. “I hope this will encourage Palestinian designers to be involved internationally.”
The audience members enjoyed their time. Majd, from Beit Hanina in north Jerusalem, felt it came off well. “I was really happy to be here and proud to see the effort they put into this. Several of my friends modeled and they did a good job. It could have been more professional, but in general it was a great event.” But while most expressed pride in the idea of putting Palestinian designers on the map and having a successful show, glittering with a catwalk perched atop a pool and a fantastic s sound-and-light show, no one felt the designs were revolutionary.
However, in a place where many things are run by aid organizations (a half-dozen diplomatic cars from the Red Cross and UN were parked across the street from the hotel), this was a very Palestinian show. There were no EU representatives to be t thanked for funding it, and the audience consisted almost entirely of local Palestinians from Ramallah, Bethlehem and east Jerusalem.