I’m a gift-giving locavore, preferring artifacts sourced or created wherever I happen to call home. Jordan offers amazing experiences ranging from ancient sites to eco-tours, but if you want a simple souvenir with youth appeal the kingdom falls flat. I stumbled across four Amman shops offering up artful clothing and jewelry that, despite contemporary styling, scream “made-in-the-Middle-East”. Not highbrow, but locally designed and produced by owners who are also committed to supporting regional charities. Kudos to BeAmman for throwing a spotlight on these Ammanian talents.
1. Jo Bedu launched at downtown’s Souk Jara in 2007. Initial success selling too-cool-for-school tees pushed them into a proper storefront in Jabal al-Luwebideh. In addition to streetwear, they also print their graphics on posters and pillows. Playful images aim to bridge different Arab sub-cultures. They have an outpost within the Virgin megastore in City Mall and also sell online.
The company has a strong reputation as a supporter of Feed the Artist, and teams up with Jordan River foundation and Jabel Amman Residence Association for charitable promotions and events.
2. Mlabbas began as a City Mall kiosk in 2010, reborn from a stall at the first Souk Jara (2005). They claim to have started the Arabic tee-shirt thing after noticing locals sporting clothes tagged with foreign text, clueless to the meanings. Mlabbas offers Jordanians aa affordable way to self-express.
Their bold political messages attract clients from Lybia, Syria, Bahrain and Lebanon (they’ve been visited by the Mukhabarat – Jordan’s General Intelligence Directorate – regarding their more provocative designs).
Mlabbas recently branched out into stencils (think Banksy) for clients wanting to spread a message beyond their torso. They sell at City Mall and on Rainbow Street, and their shirt sales sponsor causes like the King Hussein Cancer Foundation.
3. Korts gifted King Abdullah II bin Al-Hussein with a t-shirt in 2oo9, a gesture that kicked-off a home-based design business, with sales personally delivered by car. They opened a first shop in 2010, and a year later their main outpost in Jabal Amman, selling shirts and hoodies, hats and caps and scarves.
Korts considers a t-shirt as a personal canvas, an piece of clothing that you wear when you want to express your true self.
These designers pull inspiration from politics and try, through communication, to harmonize different Jordan Valley cultures. They donate a flat rate from each sale to Somalian famine relief.
4. 7arakat started up last year, aiming to share creative ideas within Arabic culture. They sell shirts, sweaters, and posters online and in Amman bazaars.
A portion of proceeds support “Rahaf for Development” and the Palestine Children’s Relief Fund.
Shopping local, supporting area artists who produce their goods nearby, and giving back to make the Middle East a tiny bit better: try one of Amman’s new green tees.
Images from each vendor’s Facebook page.