If you accidentally thought that fashion and Jordan do not go side by side, let me prove you wrong: the recently held fashion fair Souq Dezain is one of the biggest growing platforms for fashion design development. Even the European Union supported it, believing in the idea that culture is a new economic weapon, and creativity a key factor in all future affairs.

The second edition of Souq Dezain, held in Amman, has been organized in the atmosphere of affirmation and celebration of Jordanian fashion designers whose time on the global fashion scene is yet coming. While the synonyms for the Middle East rarely go towards women's empowerment, one strong woman, by way of example, proves that being a woman in Jordan is a blessing and not a curse. They say that success is visible to everyone, but the way to success rarely is seen. However, on the road to success, you will also empower other people. These are the words of Suhad Shtayyeh, one of the organizers of this fashion event and a creative visionary and owner of the most popular Jordanian fashion & lifestyle magazine CIIN.

In an exclusive interview for Gracija magazine, Shtayyeh, who for about two decades stands as the most influential style icon in Jordan, reveals what the Jordanian design scene has to offer to Europe and the rest of the world. She speaks of the secret of establishing a better dialogue in the fashion industry between the East and West, and how this design fair can help young creators to promote their work outside of Jordan. "Jordan has, in recent times, increased its stake in regards to fashion recognition and appreciation, resulting in well-deserved international recognition and reverence on the world design stage. We notice the rise of many independent brands and start-ups showcasing unique styles with their own spins of things. We are lucky to be a country rich in history, culture, and heritage here in Jordan, so there is a lot for young designers to pick up on and tap into“, says Shtayyeh.

The path to a better dialogue between the East and the West continues to face many obstacles. „In order to establish better dialogue and understanding in the fashion industry between East and West, the aim must be to leverage Arabian/Middle Eastern influence rather than looking west to gain prominence via imitation. Middle Eastern values, stories, and traditions including the celebration of handiwork craft that goes into creating our pieces carry the great appeal to fashion-forward buyers across the globe. We hope our designers will be able to gain more deserved traction, collaborations and international press coverage. At the core of the dialogue between East and West though is the necessity of teamwork, cooperation and to keep exchange fronts open“, Shtayyeh adds. And in terms of international exposure, there's no better platform than Dezain to promote authentic Jordanian design. „Dezain’s aim is to equip local designers that are bustling with talent and potential with the opportunities, guidance, and funds necessary to gain the right traction and go global. As a platform, Dezain will help designers take their brand to the next level through such support, networking, funding, mentorship, and training with the help and expertise of our panel members“, Shtayyeh concludes.

This year's edition of Souq Dezain brought together 40 young designers who presented a variety of creations to numerous visitors at the hangar Dezain Space. What makes this event unique is a mentoring program that enables young and prospective creatives to create a strategy for the next period, through discussions with authorities from the world fashion community. In Jordan, I also talked to a Sarajevo-born Srdjan Prodanovic, the expert in fashion marketing, who participated at the fair as a panelist and a mentor. "It is truly a great honor to be part of this platform that not only provides support at the local level but also opens the door to the world of global fashion for all creative, young people who deserve their place in the fashion world. Being a mentor is a great responsibility, but also the greatest gift. In Jordan, with these young people, I talked about the strategies of building a fashion brand. I am happy that some of them will soon have the opportunity to present their work to clients in Paris and other fashion capitals. The fashion world is always looking for novelties, so I'm positive that the Jordanian fashion scene is also of great interest to the Western world“, Prodanovic stated.

Somewhere between gorgeous dress decorated with handmade silk-colored details and unique jewelry made of precious stones and crystals, I found a unique brand that makes this world a better place. Namely, The Good Socks - Socks for Humanity sells its products in tin cans, like the ones in which you can buy food products. In cans, there are socks with universal messages of love, and the company is committed to donating 10% of every item sold to a humanitarian organization in Jordan that provides socially endangered people a daily cooked meal. Fashion with purpose, in the right sense!

The fashion designer who attracted the most attention at Souq Dezain in Amman was Petra Orfali, a woman whose Syrian, Turkish and Jordanian heritage is depicted in every thread of clothing she makes. Deeply inspired by the rich cultural and historical heritage of her mixed roots, Peter Orfali is at the forefront of her eponymous brand that has been leading the Jordanian fashion scene since 2008. Fully devoted to empowering women in the local community, she believes in fashion for purpose. In Eastern Amman, Petra Orfali trains women to work in the fashion industry. Today, twenty of her former students are working with her, and as a community, they are paving the path for Petra Orfali to step beyond Jordanian borders.

Under the motto "X is unisex" designer Mohammad Alsamhouri leads the brand X IS FOUND. Revolutionizing the wardrobe and fashion details is not an easy task, but Mohammad Alsamhouri is shaping the future of fashion by offering an alternative to a classic blazer or a new version of a clutch purse of almost cellular structure that will enrich the most classic clothing combination. He believes in fashion that does not know genders, so his innovative bow ties can be worn by men and women, equally. By using new technologies, he manages to combine traditional textiles with innovative materials in fashion design. Alsamhouri sends us the message that the future is unisex and neutral, and that the possibilities of self-expression are limitless.

From everything I have seen and heard about Souq Dezain, it is to be concluded that life in the 21st century brings different innovations and just a hint of what is expected in the future. In Jordan, I have discovered a brand new fashion world - the one in perfect balance between the past and the future. However, Souq Dezain teaches us an important lesson. Being a small country, tucked in between conflicting parties, is not always a limiting factor for development. Jordan is investing continuously in young people and for the past twenty years, it represents the country of youth, not the elderly. It adapts to the contemporary economy, so fashion design in the age of globalization is seen as an advantage. There remains hope that similar strategies will soon be implemented in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Perhaps in the near future, we will experience the flourishing of our fashion and textile industries which, due to our geographical position, the inexhaustible talent and the rich cultural and historical heritage, can position us as an interesting, new European fashion market.

(Story was originally published in Gracija magazine, March 2019.)