How Israel’s ADISH Is Using Fashion to Forge Connections With Palestinians
Under the Radar is Highsnobiety’s weekly celebration of upcoming talent. Each week, we’re spotlighting an emerging brand that’s bringing something new to the worlds of streetwear and fashion.
ADISH is the rising Israeli brand using streetwear to make cross-cultural connections with Palestinians. The brand’s name comes from the Hebrew word for apathetic — but that’s something the label certainly isn’t. “After seeing all the empty promises of politicians and those in power, who do not care about peace, we tried to approach our vision in a different way,” label co-founder Amit Luzon explains via email. “To us, ADISH is the opposite of being apathetic — it’s about making a real, meaningful change in the Middle East.”
For Luzon and fellow founder Eyal Eliyahu, who both come from Arab-Jewish backgrounds, fashion was the one way they felt they could make a difference. They see ADISH as giving a voice to Middle Eastern youth, but beyond positive symbolism, the designers want to make a tangible impact. “There are many initiatives for peace between Palestine and Israel, but we felt that few of them actually have a direct local effect,” says Luzon. “So in addition to our inspiration and message being about peace and cooperation, we wanted to start a brand that actually employs and empowers both Israelis and Palestinians, working together and also doing business.”
ADISH currently employees more than 50 Palestinian women, whose embroidery skills inspired the brand’s first collection. The release merged streetwear staples — think hoodies, T-shirts, and long-sleeves — with traditional Palestinian embroidery. “It was important to highlight these women’s skills, to collaborate with them, and learn from them,” Luzon explains. “We wanted to understand what their embroideries — the patterns and fabrics — mean to them and why. Each pattern had a story and family history, designs that have been passed down in villages for generations.”
You would think that traditional Palestinian embroidery merged with what ADISH describes as “high-end streetwear” would result in a culture clash, but the collection feels surprisingly fresh. A lot of that is down to the New York-based Palestinian-American artist Jordan Nassar, with whom ADISH collaborated (Nassar is now the brand’s art director). The artist had been making work using the same embroidery methods and helped the duo translate the traditional elements to fit within modern streetwear — so even if you’re wearing something that carries heritage going back generations, nothing ADISH makes feels dated.
Tensions and violence have been a fact of life in the region since even before the state of Israel was founded in 1948. In May, the Trump administration moved the United States embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, recognizing the city as Israel’s capital — a contentious move as the shared city is one of the fundamental issues dividing Israelis and Palestinians. The embassy opening happened as widespread Palestinian protests along the border of the Gaza Strip descended into violence, with Israeli troops killing more than 100 Palestinians and thousands more injured.
For young Israelis, creating a line that seeks to build bridges with Palestinians is no small matter. Luzon and Eliyahu were advised by friends not to make their collection political for fear of a backlash, something that didn’t surprise them. “People here in Israel are afraid of expressing their opinions, as their opinion could affect their business,” Luzon says. “What kept us going was the reason behind it — something we firmly believed in. After all, for us, a reaction is a good sign for the quality of our work. Criticism on both sides reconfirms to us that we’re doing something important, something that is provoking people to think about what we’re saying.”
For SS19, ADISH continues to be inspired by and work together with Palestinian communities, using its platform to shine a light on Palestinian heritage and the issues affecting Palestinians today — and making great clothes in the process.
The brand’s upcoming collection is called “Area A,” a reference to the nominally Palestinian Authority-controlled part of the West Bank that the Israeli government controls all passage in and out of. People living in the West Bank’s other administrative divisions, Area B and Area C, have differing levels of freedom of movement: those from Area B can only travel to Area A; those from Area C, which includes Jerusalem, can travel to all three areas and beyond.
Working with Palestinians who have access to Area A, which Israeli citizens aren’t allowed to visit, Luzon and Eliyahu took inspiration from de facto Palestinian capital Ramallah and the daily lives of Palestinian taxi drivers, who face a particular challenge. “To be an effective Palestinian taxi driver, you don’t just need a car and a license, you need the freedom of movement given only those born to Area C,” Luzon explains.
The collection draws on the everyday clothes of Palestinian cab drivers, who, according to Luzon, “seem to throw on whatever they can afford, each one of them presenting his or her own sartorial expression of a survival battle.” Veering towards sportier shapes, the SS19 collection keeps the embroidery from ADISH’s first release and mixes it with references to Area A and the special VIP status of those from Area C.
Scanning the lookbook, cab drivers aren’t the first thing you think of — nor any kind of sartorial survival battle. Instead, the release weaves elements from sportswear, dadcore, and classic logo-heavy streetwear, featuring soft pastel hoodies, statement graphic “VIP” long-sleeves, shorts and T-shirts, embroidered straight leg jeans, and ’90s denim jackets that have a hint of Western cowboy aesthetics to them. The collection is eminently wearable, fitting just as well when paired with a thobe as it does a pair of YEEZYs.
At its heart, ADISH is about using fashion to create a dialogue between estranged communities. Fear and distrust are only exacerbated by the borders and walls thrown up between people. In Israel, Gaza, and the subdivisions of the West Bank, differences are emphasized while cross-cultural conversations are becoming rarer. “We hope that ADISH has the power to change lives, even at this small scale,” Luzon tells us, “that our project will change the biases that people from both sides hold and open their minds to tolerate and respect one another.”