the palestinian origins of fair isle pattern
let's unpack the scandi girl aesthetic.
🕊️ Ceasefire Now in Gaza 🕊️
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I’m always shook to learn about the history of textiles—like the fact that gingham print is from Dutch-colonized Malaysia. The word “gingham” comes from the Malay word “genggang.” It makes me look at cottagecore skirts, Dorothy Halloween costumes and picnic blankets differently. In the US, gingham is strongly associated with the South—think Reese Witherspoon’s “whiskey in a teacup” brand of white femininity. The power in learning about textile history is that it disrupts these Western and Eurocentric aesthetic contexts.
Last week I learned that this “snowflake” design is actually the Bethlehem Star, a centuries-old Palestinian embroidery symbol. The trade between the Arab world and Europe passed through Italy, and patterns found on European garments can be traced directly to Palestine.
In the contemporary fashion space, I would say that the “snowflake” pattern manifests as a more abstracted “fair isle” pattern that designers use as a reference to Nordic and Scandinavian aesthetics. (The fair isle sweater style was not produced until WW1.) The zigzags and pointy repetitive patterns clearly harken to the “snowflake”/star imagery, however diluted. Brands with Scandi roots like Ganni, Stine Goya, Acne Studios and those without utilize this pattern all the same to market the idea of “Scandi-girl” style.
Acknowledging the Palestinian influence of fair isle patterns disrupts the narrative of “Scandi-girl” style. I would say that it reveals a crack in the marketing myth around who gets to be a “Ganni Girl”: what she’s supposed to look like, where she comes from. By naming the Palestinian origins of the fair isle pattern, it forces us to confront the irreconcilable difference in the worlds of the Ganni Girl and the Gaza Girl we see in our Instagram feeds. One is wearing colorful striped pajamas arranging pink tulips in her apartment. One is trapped under the rubble, her family and home lost.
As a fashion writer speaking to a fashion-savvy reader, I hope to share the connections between Palestine and the fashion space. To show that fashion isn’t this thing that exists in a vacuum…it’s the expression of our social and political culture through clothes. As long as we’re out here wearing Ganni fair isle sweaters, we should be talking about Palestine. I would love to know in the comments:
Are there any connections between fashion and Palestine you’ve learned about?
How do you feel about the fashion space’s general lack of acknowledgement and solidarity with Palestine? (Esp brands).
How do you think we can incentivize the fashion space to talk about Palestine?
I want to see more fashion writers with influence on Substack speaking about Palestine, and hope that my voice offers others the courage or empowerment to do so. I’ve found that IG is one avenue for sharing info and that’s great, but on Substack we have the advantage of an audience that wants to read long-form content—something that holds attention for longer than a 10 second story.
If you made it this far: thank you for supporting my writing. And thank you to everyone who has sent kind messages over the past few weeks. I appreciate the community we’re building here. 💓
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