Nol Collective: The Clothing Line Fighting for Equal Rights
By: Lindsey Penn/Arab America Contributing Writer
With so many social justice issues to fight for, many younger entrepreneurs want companies and brands that will take a stand for what they believe in. At the very least, people want to support brands committed to making positive changes. Coming from this trend is Nol Collective formerly known as BabyFist, a Palestinian company devoted to bringing about social change.
The Beginnings of BabyFist (now known as Nol Collective):
In 2017, 21-year-old Yasmeen Mjalli, a Palestinian feminist, posted a picture of a denim jacket that said: “Not Your Habibti” on her Instagram. The picture went viral, sparking many conversations about sexism in the Arab world. Women commented on her picture, bringing to light their experiences with unwanted sexual advances. After the photo, #NotYourHabibti became a movement, parallel to the #MeToo movement, which Mjalli also supports because it proves that this is not just an issue for women in the Arab world. Mjalli then moved to Ramallah, Palestine, to create BabyFist which is now known as Nol Collective, her clothing line.
Nol Collective’s (formerly, BabyFist’s) Clothing
The clothing company creates clothing providing quotes and symbols that empower Arab women. While they still sell the jackets with “Not Your Habibti,” the company sells other pieces of clothing, like sweatshirts and t-shirts. They also use other phrases in English, Arabic, and French to show defiance of the idea that women are objects “owned” by men. Another phrase that is popular is “Every rose has its revolution,” where the word “revolution” is in Arabic (thowra). The phrase plays on the common saying in English, “every rose has its thorn,” but is really meant as a quip to men who believe that women are “delicate flowers.”
In addition to clothing, Nol Collection sells jewelry, notebooks, bags, and more.
Nol Collective’s Mission
Beyond the empowerment of women through clothing and calling attention to harassment, Mjalli’s mission is to help Palestinians. For example, Mjalli chose to use a family-owned factory in Gaza to produce the clothing. By employing people in Gaza, she hopes to bring the area more opportunities. There are often issues with the manufacturing; whenever tensions between Israel and Palestine are high, the borders close, and shipping stalls. Mjalli has also not been able to visit the factory and has to find unique ways to send her designs. Despite these struggles, Mjalli wants to continue with the factory in Gaza so that she can employ more people.
Nol Collective’s (formerly BabyFist) mission also includes “illuminating the politics that go into producing, engaging with, and buying fashion, and [in their words], art is political, and thus, fashion is political.”
You can’t fight for freedom with only half the population empowered.
For her jewelry line, Nol Collective uses handmade jewelry from a women’s cooperative in a village just on the border of Jerusalem.
Apart from producing everything locally, Nol Collective (formerly BabyFist) aims to showcase the diversity of the Arab identity through their models. Clothing is modeled by women who wear the hijab and those who don’t. They also highlight different body types and work past gender stereotypes.
Nol Collective also gives 10% of its profits to a campaign that educates young women about menstruation, making sure that they have access to supplies. They also host “workshops, discussions, and film screenings” to give young Palestinians a space to learn and talk about social issues, such as mental health. The most important part of BabyFist’s mission is to start serious conversations about change to achieve true equality.
Feminism in the Arab World
For those who say that feminism and gender equality need to take a backseat until Palestinian freedom is secured, Mjalli answers, “You can’t fight for freedom with only half the population empowered.” Mjalli believes in “shades” of feminism, rather than “one-size-fits-all”. There are different types of feminism for different people, with “white feminism” being the most dominant. “Mainstream feminism” has a tendency of leaving the Palestinian struggle out of the conversation, forcing Palestinians to leave their nationality and Palestinian pride out. For example, Ahed Tamimi, a 19-year-old Palestinian activist, is viewed as too radical for empowering herself and becoming a symbol of the Palestinian resistance to Israeli occupation, where other white feminists are not. However, feminism is important to the Palestinian struggle, just as the Palestinian struggle should be important to feminism. Intersectionality of identity exists, so why shouldn’t there be different kinds of feminism?
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