Behind the Brand: Kannava

Fair Trade. Small Scale Production. Heritage. Female Empowerment.

Kannava is an ethical fashion label that partners with female refugees to create beautiful pieces based on traditional hand embroidery called tatreez.

Kannava believe that fashion can be a powerful force for social change. Each piece created by Kannava is entirely unique and has taken over a month to hand embroider by a female refugee. Every item created gives these amazingly talented women the opportunity to earn a fair wage, break the cycled of poverty and preserve the dying art of tatreez.

A portion of Kannava’s profits goes towards supporting schools in refugee camps.

In the words of Kannava’s founder, Hayfa:

Where the story began…

I started Kannava to celebrate refugees, their rich cultures and talents that are often overlooked and become lost once they are labelled a ‘refugee’. I believe in female empowerment and work in partnership with the refugee artisans to give them the opportunity to earn a fair wage to improve their own lives and market their skills. I believe that these stitches can change their stories.

"I believe that these stitches can change their stories."

I come from a family of refugees and I want to shine a light on the forgotten refugee camps that have existed for decades, those that were supposed to be temporary makeshift tents, that have since turned into permanent slums. Through Kannava, I want to showcase the talents of the people that have lived in the refugee camps for most of their lives.

This is a collaborative project. I work with our artisans during the design process to ensure that they provide their creative flair and expert knowledge to ensure our products are authentic and true to the traditions of tatreez.

There are limited opportunities to earn an income for people living in refugee camps. Kannava creates a unique employment model that allows our artisans to complete most of their work within their home, in their own time, without adding the extra costs and complications of travel and childcare. I work with local community centres that support the women and provides them with the materials used to create the pieces to avoid incurring costs before they are paid.

Education

Schools in the refugee camps are severely under-resourced. Not only are teachers teaching in classrooms that are way over capacity, but they are trying to deal with various levels of abilities, ages and mental health issues.

Some schools are crumbling asbestos ridden buildings or even tents, whilst other camps do not have any resources to educate children at all, meaning an entire generation of refugees grows up without any formal education. Education is, of course, a fundamental part of a child’s development and essential if they are to break out of the cycle of poverty that displacement brings. Not only do I want to work with women in helping them change their lives, but by donating a portion of sales towards supporting schools in refugee camps, I really hope Kannava can make a difference to some young lives.

Tatreez: traditional storytelling through stitching

Tatreez is an art that originated thousands of years ago and was widely practised by village women in Palestine. The patterns, colours and materials were linked to each woman’s identity, with motifs inspired by elements of the environment around them. The embroidery was a form of storytelling and each region had a distinct style and colour palette. Girls were taught by the older generations how to embroider from a very young age.

Tatreez takes time – a lot of it. Due to uprooting of the families and the handicraft now being cheaply reproduced by machines, this stunning craftwork is at serious risk of extinction.

Living in refugee camps does not afford much time or means to practice the art. It takes over a month to hand embroider some of our simplest pieces - but where women can earn from this, they are able to keep this craft alive and preserve a part of their identity that goes far beyond ‘refugee’.

Kannava works with female refugees with exceptional embroidery skills and helps them make a livelihood from it. Our embroiders are artists, and when they speak about tatreez they say it is a form of therapy. They pick up the needle and thread and are immersed in creating the piece, forgetting about their troubles and the daily grind of living in the camps.

Our goal is to create beautiful pieces that preserve the rich art of tatreez whilst providing opportunities and economic empowerment to women living in refugee camps.

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