Models strut in rare West Bank fashion show
Draped in sleek evening gowns and frothy wedding dresses, the models at the West Bank's first haute couture fashion show could have been walking at Paris Fashion Week.
But the rare presentation was instead staged in the West Bank city of Ramallah, the de facto capital of the Palestinian territories, during the city's first ever bridal fair.
The show and the three-day expo, bringing together designers, caterers and even institutions willing to give would-be brides and grooms wedding loans, attracted some of the West Bank's most well-heeled residents.
Decked out in their finest, they snapped pictures with their mobile phones and applauded the creations of Palestinian designer Jamal Taslaq that came down the runway to the beat of remixed Arabic pop songs.
Taslaq, a Nablus-born designer who has lived and worked in Italy for the past 20 years, sent suits, gowns and wedding dresses down the runway, many of them adorned with accents intended to evoke his homeland.
A black trouser suit featured a lapel and cuffs with the chequered black-and-white pattern from a Palestinian keffiyeh scarf of the type famously worn by former president Yasser Arafat.
One bold wedding dress took inspiration from the Palestinian flag, the white sheath skirt forming the central stripe, with a triangular red chest plate up top and green and red chiffon siding fitted through the hip and then flaring out dramatically as the model, wearing an olive tree headpiece, glided forward.
Another gown, worn by a model carrying an olive branch bouquet, featured beading and embroidery in gold and red that had its roots in the traditional, heavily-embroidered wedding robes worn by Palestinian brides.
At a press conference before the show Taslaq expressed excitement at being able to show his designs at home.
"At every fashion show in Italy or Europe, I always add something related to Palestinian heritage in the designs or Palestinian embroidery done in a modern way because the past is the future," he said.
Presenting his designs were 11 professional models who came for the show from Italy.
Taslaq said he was working with Italian models for this show because his designs had already been custom fit for them, but didn't rule out using Palestinian models in future presentations.
Palestinian Authority culture minister Siham Barghouti applauded the show, which was co-sponsored by the Italian consulate-general in east Jerusalem.
"This is an opportunity to give a Palestinian creator the chance to stage a presentation in his own country, Palestine," Barghouti said.
Audience members, many dressed in their most stylish outfits and jewellery, paid 150 shekels ($41, 30 euros) to attend the fashion show, a not insignificant sum in the West Bank, where unemployment tops 15 percent.
But enthusiastic attendees welcomed the presentation.
"The show was fantastic and I really hope there are more like it held here in the future," said Suha al-Waary, a bride-to-be who came from Jerusalem to attend the presentation and bridal fair.
Not everybody was happy about the fashion show, which attracted the ire of at least one Hamas representative.
Lawmaker Hamid al-Bitawi accused the Palestinian Authority, which controls the West Bank and is dominated by Hamas rival Fatah, of seeking to "spread corruption" among Palestinian youth, dubbing the fashion show "immoral".