81 Designs and Naqsh Collective stitch together A Thobe Story - GulfToday

81 Designs and Naqsh Collective stitch together A Thobe Story


A Thobe Story by 81 Designs and Naqsh Collective blends tradition and modernity.

Muhammad Yusuf, Features Writer

The good news is that (there is no bad news) UAE social enterprise 81 Designs has collaborated with Jordanian design studio Naqsh Collective to create A Thobe Story, a line of 21st century Palestinian thobes, embodying a deep rooted heritage, which will be presented and curated at the upcoming Abu Dhabi Art (to be held virtually Nov. 19 – 26).

Traditional thobes have been modernised to depict traditions that move through time — transforming them from being a national attire in Arab countries, into a new visual language. The rich Arabian culture is evident from the intricacy of the work, volume of details in each design, to its ultimate transformation. Each of the ten art pieces is hand-embroidered by Palestinian refugee women employed by 81 Designs, reflecting Naqsh Collective’s stories of missing experiences in Palestinian cities: Jaffa, Acre and Gaza.


Studios and streets: Opera Gallery Dubai hosts artist Kai's works

Animal fables teach state of art lessons at N2N Gallery show

With a mission to bring both art and humanity together, mother and daughter Nesrine El Tibi Maalouf and Nadine Y Maalouf founded 81 Designs to provide job opportunities to refugee artisan women living in Ain El-Hilweh Camp in South Lebanon, and showcase their artisanal talents. The aim was to restore hope in building their future, and preserve traditions. In every project the enterprise launches, they collaborate with regional artists. They have done special projects with eL Seed, Hassan Hajjaj, Bokja and now, with Naqsh Collective.  “The synergy between 81 Designs and Naqsh Collective is rooted from our ideal to preserve tradition through the time-honoured embroidery technique, Tatreez. Through our collaboration, we aim to showcase artisanal talents, while providing a platform for regional artists and designers to showcase their art in a different medium”, said Nadine Y Maalouf. Delicate finishing and fine machine production informed with ingenuity are the hallmarks of Naqsh Collective, founded in 2010 by Jordanian sisters Nisreen and Nermeen Abudail.

Naqsh has become renowned for their unique pieces of art and intricate collaboration with design. A harmonious union between the oriental and the modern, aspects of art, architecture and heritage, are integrated through sophisticated minimalism. It is a union that fits perfectly into modern life, to be enjoyed for shapes, meanings and compositions. Naqsh founders find inspiration in contemporary simplicity and traditional Arabic aesthetic, which they combine with high quality local craftsmanship.

The sisters blend the beauty of their Palestinian heritage with contemporary aesthetic. “Our attempt in creating a Palestinian thobe is to imagine living our missing experiences of our beloved Palestine, like jumping off Akka’s cliff and going on a fishing trip by Jaffa’s Port, and more.

Detail from A Thobe Story by 81 Designs and Naqsh Collective.

“The thobes will connect with grandmothers and can be passed on from generation to generation”, says Nermeen Abudail.

Producing works with brass, industrial marble and solid wood with the aesthetics of embroidery, Naqsh Collective wants the presence of cultural elements in non-traditional presentations.

Nisreen Abudail said: “We wanted the thobes to emanate the same cultural feel and reflect the same story as our brass work. The women from 81 Designs that we work with elevate the quality of local craftsmanship because of their hard work and stories shared during the process”. The art pieces will be available at USD 10,000 each at Abu Dhabi Art. contact@81DesignsME on Facebook/Instagram/official website 81designsme.com.

Nesrine El Tibi Maalouf, co-founder of 81 Designs and the enterprise’s COO said: “This project has faced several challenges due to the covid pandemic and the current economic and political crisis in Lebanon. We are grateful for the extraordinary commitment Naqsh Collective has shown to bring this project to life”.  She was born in Beirut and has lived in Libya, Bahrain, Lebanon and Saudi Arabia, before moving to the United States. Graduating with a bachelor’s degree in public administration from the American University of Beirut, she located to New York City, where she started her career in advertising by assisting in producing TV commercials.  She then moved back to Middle East with her husband and children and worked in administration at King Fahd Hospital in Riyadh for several years. Relocating to the United States, she worked as a consultant in various projects and also focused on raising her family. She co-founded 81 Designs in 2015 with her daughter.

Nadine Y Maalouf is also the founder of Peak Advisory Group and Sawtouna. Born in Beirut, she has lived in Riyadh, Florida, Montreal and New York, before settling in the UAE.  A graduate of Pratt Institute in New York City with a degree in Art Direction and a minor in Art History, she began her career in advertising at BBDO New York.  Later, she moved to the UAE and continued to work in marketing, in both the public and private sectors, for almost five years.

She was awarded Young Achiever of the Year in 2011 by Arab Woman Awards, and has been a board member of the Arab Woman Awards organisation since 2012.

Nadine also is the co-chair of the Abu Dhabi Dream Ball. She has worked with several art education institutions and retail groups in the role of an advisor, to advance capacity building in Abu Dhabi. She is married with two children and lives in Abu Dhabi.

Related articles