Ayah Tabari: Stitching sustainability into fashion

Manar Alhinai | United Arab Emirates | 17.12.2017

32-year-old Palestinian fashion designer Ayah Tabari is one of the many emerging designers based in Dubai’s Design District. She launched her women’s fashion label ‘All Things Mochi’ in 2013, after a trip to Goa, India, where she discovered the incredible embroidery work of local artisans. The All Things Mochi collections are inspired by the work of artisans from various countries, who are also commissioned by the label to handcraft modern designs by using traditional methods of embroidery. Celebrity supermodels, such as Gigi Hadid and Cara Delevinge, have worn Ayah’s designs.

 

With worldwide demand for fashion houses to be more sustainable and to support local communities, we meet with Ayah, whose business model is based on just those demands, and discuss how her fashion label is supporting local artisans globally.

 

All Things Mochi works with local artisans from around the world to make the clothes; how did you come up with your business concept?

When I started All Things Mochi, I wanted to make sure my designs remained both ethical and socially conscious, as the reason for starting the brand was because I fell in love with the artisans’ work and wanted to help bridge the gap between them and the global market place.

 

There’s been a lot of talk recently on how the fashion industry should be sustainable and should not harm society and the environment; what measures are you taking at All Things Mochi to ensure that?

When we began, we manufactured all our items in the country from which we sourced the materials. This enabled us to support the communities who had made the raw materials. Our orders back then were small, so it was easy to control. As the brand evolved, however, our orders became much larger, so we’ve had to make certain changes in our production. We still source materials from the country of origin. However, we have had to set up a small factory of artisans to specifically work on our orders.

 

How are you supporting the artisans after the sale of the items?

We do not discontinue any of our lines, so we work with the artisans on an ongoing basis. We also revisit countries for new collections. For example, I am working on a new Thailand collection for next year but first worked on a collection with artisans from the Thai Mayan Tribe for SS15. I always try to ensure that the communities’ quality of life is improved and that we can continue to support them. They are like family to me.

 

 

How do you choose the local artisans to work with?

I usually spend around 10 days in each country I work with and immerse myself in their culture to enable me to become inspired and create the collections. I normally partner up with an NGO that introduces me to lots of different artisan communities during my trips. It’s then down to who I believe gets the vision the most and we go from there.

 

How many countries and artists did you collaborate with so far since you started in 2013?

Nine countries, including: Jaipur, Thailand, Hungary, Palestine, Uzbekistan, Spain, Africa, Morocco, and most recently, Mexico. We work with several different communities in the in each country, as there are different [embroidery] techniques for ready-to-wear and accessory manufacturing.

 

 

What do you have in mind for 2018? Who will you be collaborating with?

We have a few collaborations up our sleeves but you must wait and see! We are focusing heavily on the US market, so you’ll be seeing more of Mochi stateside.

           

How does the region (specifically the GCC) inspire you in your design journey?

The support I receive from the region is what inspires me. I also love what the Dubai Design and Fashion Council is doing to help the GCC fashion industry gain repute on an international scale.

 

Have you ever thought about doing a Khaleeji-inspired collection, since the brand is based in the GCC region?

Yes, I will be working with Khaleeji artisans for my Ramadan 2018 collection and will be using the assffafah embroidery technique specifically.

 

We’ve seen the emergence of many fashion designers in the GCC in the past 5 years; what is your advice to them to pursue a fashion-conscious, sustainable fashion business?

Make sure you know the conditions in which your collections are being produced in. It’s so important. Keep going, and don’t give up on your dream—fashion is a labour-intensive industry, but the more you work, the more success you will gain.

 

You’ve introduced a children’s line: Mini Mochi. Will you also be introducing a men’s line anytime soon?

Not yet, but maybe in the future. I think my husband needs some Mochi!

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