Meet the luxury hat designer supporting the refugee community in Lebanon through design.
Contributing editor at Curated Today, Saja, interviews founder of Kinda Afifi in Lebanon in order to shed light on what brands in MENA can do to support their own communities.
About Kinda Afifi
Currently Lebanon hosts close to 450,000 Palestinian refugees in 12 camps.
Conditions for the communities living in refugee camps in Lebanon are notoriously difficult. Employment opportunities are limited and the level of unemployment is extremely high. At the same time, traditionally it is not usual for the women to seek employment outside their immediate surroundings. Living on aid and handouts is neither sufficient for needs nor conducive to psychological wellbeing. It was these social problems that led me to establish Kinda Afifi Designs as a way of creating employment for refugee Palestinian women.
In this feature, I speak to Kinda Afifi, a half Lebanese and half Palestinian designer, who has an affinity towards the art of embroidery and hats.
Practicing sustainable designs starts with how we make our clothes. As much as sustainability is all about producing products the ethical way, it is also about how we are influencing other people from all around the world. Considering the impacts that brands have within our society and the differences that they are making, these are very important takeaway points that conscious consumers care about and are growing increasingly aware of.
Introducing Kinda Afifi, a sympathetic and driven woman who is making a difference to a society in need.
1. What inspired you to set up your brand?
Kinda Afifi began in 2020 when the conditions in Lebanon were getting worse by the minute. A lot of people might say that starting a business during the harsh conditions Lebanon might have not been the best move. However, after extensive research I found out that Lebanon hosts close to 450,000 Palestinian refugees in 12 camps. Conditions for the communities living in refugee camps in Lebanon are notoriously difficult and employment opportunities are limited. At the same time, traditionally it is not usual for the women to seek employment outside their immediate surroundings. It was these social problems that led me to establish Kinda Afifi as a way of creating employment for refugee Palestinian women. The women from the camps work on the embroidery of the hats and other products by hand. The embroidery is done with precision and care. The work allows the women a sense of empowerment and belonging, and that is the goal that Kinda Afifi aims for.
2. What are the values in your brand that you think resonates with your customers and why?
Kinda Afifi is a fashion brand focused on the art of embroidery; mainly on hats, that creates one of a kind luxury handmade hats that empower both the Palestinian woman making them and the customers that buy them. The brands values revolve around empowerment, belonging and craftsmanship and this is reflected through our customers as a lot want to know more about the story behind the brand when purchasing an item.
3. What is something about your brand that you want people to know about?
My collections are all designed from my experiences and life lessons. The first collection ever designed was a very special one as it was a tribute towards my two grandmothers, who were a big inspiration in my life. This collection is an iconic one and I chose to bring my brand to life starting with that collection, “A Tribute Collection.”
4. Has the Covid-19 pandemic changed you in any way and how has this affected your brand or the decisions that you take for your company?
I can truly say on behalf of everyone that Covid-19 has impacted a lot of people, especially many brands. As someone who started her brand at the beginning of pandemic, I have found it very difficult to work with my suppliers and especially the women in the refugee camps. Therefore, the pandemic taught me to think of collections and designs 10 steps into the future as we never know what awaits us the next day.
Kinda Afifi tries to help out the communities it is around as much as possible, especially the Lebanese community. During the 2020 Covid pandemic Kinda Afifi designed masks and with the masks sold we were able to raise money to put together over 100 care packages. Each box was filled with essential goods that would help families across Lebanon to get through the difficult times. A portion of the masks were designed for the Lebanese Red Cross, over 100 masks were sent to them to help them through the difficult time they had to endure.
5. Lastly, if you can fast forward a year, what would you like to see happen? Either in your brand, or the society you live in or in general.
As a brand I would love to be able to travel and feature my brand in different countries, as that was something that has been hard during the pandemic due to the travel restrictions. Also, collaborations with different designers is something that Kinda Afifi is working on and hopefully will come to life soon.
As a society, I hope for everything to go back to normal as in, physical contact, physical shopping and being able to meet people. The pandemic restricted us from doing so, and I am sure there are a lot of people out there that are missing this as well.