A woman artisan holding up a piece of white fabric with embroideries she made.

Embroidered vistas over Amman

Looking at the embroidered prints for LOKALT is like taking a tour through Amman. We talked to Tania about working with social entrepreneurs, collaborating with IKEA and why she keeps coming back to her hometown in Jordan in her design.

From Tania’s home in Amman, you have a perfect view of the hilly city with the bowl-shaped centre. From here you can see how people move their lives out onto the rooftops as soon as the temperature rises. The skyline —filled with water tanks, birds, satellite dishes and clotheslines — is also the scene Tania used for the very first sketch for LOKALT, a coming IKEA collection in collaboration with local designers and social entrepreneurs.

“We do have really special rooftops. Just like in many other places in the Middle East, we bring our living room outside — your tv, the sofa, everything! I thought it would be fun to show this part of Amman in my design,” says Tania.

A group of women artisans discussing embroideries they are making.

Tania Haddad is a fashion designer, born and raised in the capital of Jordan. Even though she spent several years abroad studying fashion and design, she stays true to her hometown in her patterns. With her naïve and cartoon-like design, she tells stories about life in Amman and uses the everyday objects that remind her of her childhood here.

“Amman is a very special city for me. It is a beautiful and charming city. It is also a bit chaotic with all the people, the colourful cars, the many birds, the small alleys and all the viewpoints people head to in the evening to watch the sunset. I call it beautiful chaos, and this is the chaos I miss when I am away and the chaos I miss when the city is in pandemic lockdown,” says Tania.

A woman artisan holding up a cushion with embroideries she made.

Do you have a favourite place in Amman?

“My favourite place is the Roman Theatre in downtown Amman. It is open almost every day. You can sit there and relax and watch all the people, have a coffee or cotton candy. If I am feeling down, or just need silence, I go to a viewpoint instead.”

LOKALT is an IKEA collection of home textiles, ceramics and baskets designed together with four local designers in Jordan, Thailand and India. It will be produced in collaboration with social enterprises who create jobs in regions where they’re most needed.

Collaborating this way is not new to Tania. When she started her own fashion brand some years back, she wanted to support some of the many refugees living in Amman. She describes how she put up “help wanted” ads all over town and how she finally gathered a small team of tailors and embroiderers working from their homes.

For the LOKALT collection, IKEA and Tania work together with the social entrepreneur Jordan River Foundation, a non-profit organisation which creates sustainable economic opportunities for local community women and female refugees. At Jordan River Foundation, refugees from different backgrounds have quickly learnt from the experienced artisans and now work together with them.

A woman artisan holding up a piece of white fabric with black embroideries she made.

Tania brought her first ideas for LOKALT to the artisans to learn what they could do, and to get inspired by their work.

“I asked the artisans how they could incorporate embroidery into my prints, but I also wanted them to add their personal touch to it. They are really talented. For example, it is mind-bending to watch how they, using an embroidery sewing machine, can draw an image directly on fabric.”

Why do you think it is important to work together with social enterprises like JRF?

“For me, it is always important to work with social enterprises. It is a way of helping each other. When you’re a small business you only reach a limited number of people. Partnering up with IKEA will change that, and it’s so important. The women at JRF have learned the craft from their mothers and grandmothers and you can learn the tradition and the technique from them. The embroidery truly comes from their heart. You merge your ideas together and something brilliant comes out,” says Tania.

Two women artisans and their embroideries for IKEA.

The pillowcases and the throw Tania designed together with the artisans for LOKALT shows what is typical for the city. The big throw includes a whole view of Amman.

Can you take us on a tour through the scene on the throw?

“This is the old part of Amman. You see the water tanks, the laundry, the satellite dishes, old cars and some greenery. I also added some birds, because many people take care of birds on the rooftops. The kites really represent Amman and definitely take me back to my childhood. In springtime, you always see the kites above the city.”

What about the colourful pickup trucks?

“You know, there is a whole culture around designing the pickups, a lot of geometric shapes and cute and tacky symbols. I used to take a lot of pictures of the pickups, and almost every time the driver would stop and tell me the story about the design and how proud he was of the car. It is very representative of Amman.”

When Tania first showed the women at Jordan River Foundation the design they started giggling.

“But I could tell how much they liked it. They knew exactly what the rooftops look like and suggested what to add. The patterns for LOKALT are really representing our living. The design is a glimpse of what you would see if you visited Amman,” says Tania.

The LOKALT collection will be in stores 2021.

Jordan – a country of only 9 million people with high rates of unemployment – has taken on a great responsibility hosting many of the region’s refugees. The non-profit organization Jordan River Foundation (JRF) and IKEA team up to create jobs for Jordanian women and women refugees in this hard-pressed region – while at the same time creating products that represent courage and visions in terms of design.