This Label’s New Collection Is Inspired by Their Experience as Queer Palestinians
But look a bit deeper. At the pool, a model is actively being restrained and arrested. Zip-ties are hanging from the belts. Imagery of gay Arab icons is plastered onto some of the skirts, as well as sleeveless muscle tanks that boast Armenian prints as an ode to Jerusalem’s Armenian culture and population. Here, Lawrence who hails from East Jerusalem, Palestine, and is of Armenian and Lebanese descent, along with his co-designer Omar Braika, a Palestinian refugee who lives in Jordan, wanted to reference the ongoing checkpoints and inspections that Palestinians have to go through while attempting to cross from Palestine to Israel, while also touching on perceptions of gay culture in the Middle East.
Lawrence looked at photographs of Palestinians being arrested in his neighborhood from the organization activestills.org, to inform the collection. A women’s tank top is sewn flipped up in the back to mimic the way a man’s tank top crumples as he is being restrained and cuffed. In another instance, a pair of pink leather flared pants show the outline of the pelvic region. “You have these flared hot pants, but the crotch area is outlined to inspect this area, like, ‘inspect my body without permission,’” Lawrence explains.
In order for Lawrence to visit his friends in Ramallah, Palestine, he has to wait up to two hours to pass a checkpoint, whereas, without a checkpoint, the trip would only be around 20 minutes. To quickly pass though, Lawrence and his friends often dress in skimpier outfits, in hopes of appearing more Western or foreign. In turn, Trashy Clothing underscores this point with pieces that are as easily removable as possible, using accessible zippers and exaggerated slips. “People are often checked on how they look, so if you are dressing in less, you’re less likely to get stopped,” says Lawrence. “When I was younger and we’d go out, we’d put on foreign music, like Italian music, in the car to not be asked for IDs. If we were wearing jackets we’d take them off. It’s the concept of undressing and being ready to get undressed at any point.”
Lawrence and Braika included kitschy odes to the Arab pop stars who they consider to be gay icons of the early ’00s, including Lebanese entertainer Haifa Wehbe, Egyptian singer Sherihan, and Maria, an Armenian-Lebanese pop star. “They expressed their sexual side, which, while growing up, was so new. As queer people, we saw them claiming their sexuality and their bodies, and their lyrics and their voice,” says Lawrence. Many of the pieces in Trashy Clothing’s latest collection are inspired by these music videos, including a sleeveless tank and red pants culled from Wehbe’s “Ebn El Halal.” Sherihan’s face is also printed on a t-shirt and leggings while Maria’s face appears on a skirt.
These two designers are used to making political statements. Back in 2018, they presented a runway in Berlin that featured a wall obstructing the view for half of the audience, a division that represented the one between Palestine and Israel. Lawrence and Braika embrace the discomfort. “That is part of our brand identity, the superficiality mixed with pain,” Lawrence says. “It’s about contradictions, teaching, raising awareness, putting the consumer onto not only buying clothing for its aesthetics but also for its story.”
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