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81 designs : a platform to support women refugees and traditional crafts

In Lebanon, a social and artistic platform allows some female artisan refugees to make a living from their art while renewing an ancestral embroidery tradition: “tatreez”.

Nadine Maalouf has always wanted to mix art and social activities. After studying art in Dubai, this young Syrian-Palestinian woman founded, in Lebanon in 2016, 81Designs, a social enterprise that promotes the tradition of “tatreez”, a cross-stitch embroidery art, while improving the daily lives of its female refugee employees.

Expressing the talent of refugee women

Nadine started the business with her mother, Nesrine. Her idea is based on a social ambition: helping female artisan refugees to earn a stable income. How? By offering them a platform for artistic expression and providing them the training, the equipment, the emotional support and an employment. From that ambition was born their “platform for refugee women artisans” that “showcases their talent and creativity“. Currently, 81Designs employs 12 refugee women, but the company hopes to increase its workforce soon.

In addition to the social mission, 81Designs is also the guardian of an ancestral tradition: the “tatreez”, the cross stitch embroidery. Therefore, the platform collaborates with several artists from the Arab world by recreating and reinterpreting their original works in embroidery.

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An artistic and commercial success story

One of their recent collaborations involved Moroccan photographer Hassan Hajjaj, a figurehead of pop art revival in his country. “Seeing unity between these women, has won my heart,” says the artist.

81Designs has been a real revival for all its employees. The social enterprise gave them a means of subsistence by offering them the guarantee of a regular income. “All the women here had money problems, they were not supported by anyone, says Nadine. The first project we were given saved our lives. “

Published on 31 August 2018