100 under 40: The world’s most influential young Arabs
Sun 27 Mar 2016 07:37 AM
Zeina Abou Chaaban
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Zeina Abou Chaaban

Industry: Culture and society

Company: Palestyle

Designation: Founder

Country: UAE (Palestine)

Age: 33

There are few people empowering women refugees. One of them
is Zeina Abou Chaaban. Originally a logistics planner for Procter & Gamble
(P&G) in Dubai, Abou Chaaban is the co-founder of heritage-based fashion
brand, Palestyle. The business model involves paying women in refugee camps for
embroidery work, which is then stitched into a Palestyle design. Part of the
proceeds of sales also are diverted to social development projects in the
camps.

So far, the brand has employed 100 refugee women to produce
the embroidery and benefited over 4,000 refugees with social projects such as a
water tank exchange program and olive tree plantation.

Abou Chaaban told The National newspaper that what makes
embroidery unique is that it speaks the language of a culture. The refugee
women use the traditional Palestinian embroidery style for all their work,
which is then used for Palestyle products such as pillow covers, bags and
menswear.

Palestyle has become so popular it is now being sold in some
of the world’s top high-end retailers including Bloomingdales, Etoile, and
House of Frasier. Its products have been seen on celebrities such as Gwyneth
Paltrow and Eva Longoria and are available in boutiques across the UAE, Qatar,
Pakistan, and the UK.

The idea to merge heritage and fashion came to Abou Chaaban
while on a visit to a refugee camp in Lebanon. She was inspired by the
colourful embroideries of refugee women who, despite living in harsh
conditions, continued to engage in the age-old Arab tradition.

Today, she runs the firm alongside her brother
Ahmed, who joined her in 2011.

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