Nafsika Skourti’s FW20 collection takes flight, but not without remembering its revolutionary roots
Jordanian ready-to-wear glamorous brand Nafsika Skourti, which balances allure just as well as it does modesty, launched in Paris in 2014 from sisters Nafsika and Stephanie Skourti. The duo was once again in the City of Light this season to showcase their FW20 collection, titled Memories of a Home I Never Lived In. It’s both a highly personal and emotional statement – neither sister ever experienced their Palestinian culture first-hand. “This collection is rooted in that feeling you get when you go through a forgotten suitcase of your mother’s old dresses, or find a box of dusty photos,” explains Nafsika. “You stop everything you’re doing to admire and discover your family and what they looked like back then. Looking at old photos of my mother feels so familiar, and yet, I’ve never met this exciting 20-year-old I think I know so well.”
This feeling of déjà vu translates to a collection with vinyl leather, quilted crystal mesh, and a signature corset in blush pink. “As much as I love the internet and millennial things, I am forever inspired by the art of corsetry,” says Nafsika, pointing to how the high rounded neckline offers a retro feel. Overarching, however, is a sense of nostalgic patriotism. Identity has always been central to the sisters’ work but their Palestinian heritage has only ever been explored via photographs, maps, letters, and documents from the Palestinian Museum, an independent institution in Birzeit dedicated to Palestinian culture.
The Central Saint Martins graduate shares how these findings – hundreds of images online – are rife with “the energy of resistance and celebration,” which they then developed into multiple pieces. Delicate beaded fringes remind of the trimmings of Seventies furniture, handcrafted in Amman by a group of women artisans, some refugees. The designer underlines that the brand’s outreach is part of a continuous education initiative. “This season, women were not just stitching crystal patterns,” says Nafsika. “They were building Arabic letters and words, which came from historical manifestos,” adding that the process took months. “Our collaboration with these women is core to the design process. There was a real excitement to export these words that came from home.”
Central to the pieces are the words zaytoun (olive), fidai (freedom fighter), and watan (country), found on a poster produced by pioneering Beirut-based publishing house Dar al Fata al ‘arabi. Meanwhile, artwork on multiple pieces draw inspiration from the Palestinian resistance movement. Textiles featuring fading doves – some bleeding – roses, and letters from a 1985 poster send messages of hope, peace, and “an enduring pursuit of autonomy,” explains Nafsika. White doves in particular have long been used as symbols of messengers of peace, while their blood, in some ancient customs, is used for writings.
Across a palette of browns, neutrals, and navy blues, accents of sunflower yellow, red, and KiraKira sparkle throughout. Waists dazzle with bejeweled belts. The flower prints were inspired by a vintage shirt belonging to their mother. “This collection’s energy is quite domestic. It is a personal invitation into my home, and our collective memories,” considers Nafsika. “Through our hospitality, our close-knit relationships, our food, the stories of my grandmother, Palestine lives on. It made me realize that a cup of tea may be the most powerful form of resistance after all. We may be losing the political fight, but on this couch we win.”
Originally published in the April 2020 issue of Vogue Arabia