For GRAZIA’s fourth episode on season two of Preserving Palestine, I invited Zeid Hijazi to join me as we discuss what it was like to win the Debut Talent Prize from Fashion Trust Arabia in 2020, and why it can be problematic for Palestinians in the diaspora to be compared to Palestinians living under occupation.
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It’s no secret that I’m a fan of Zeid Hijazi. I’ve even declared that he will undoubtedly make his couture week debut soon, and after our conversation on Preserving Palestine, I’m even more sure of it.
I’ve known Zeid years before the rest of the industry ever did, and seeing his journey has been inspiring and exciting. Remembering our conversations from when we were still teenagers, like how Zeid would share his dreams of one day becoming a creative director for a major fashion house under LVMH, and now seeing him getting one step closer each year, has been a full circle moment for myself to watch as a bystander.
Growing up in Amman, Zeid knew he wanted to be a fashion designer from a very young age. “I had a great childhood and I had parents who were pro-education,” he tells me. ” I think it was pretty organic. I remember, my first time having an encounter with fashion, I think I was nine years old and my sister was starring in a play at her high school and the play was about my mannequins coming to life in an atelier. And I was so mesmerised. I wanted to go back home and learn more about fashion.”
After high school, Zeid went on to study at Central Saint Martins, the same college that was the stepping stone for many of his mentors. Whilst CSM has helped him grow and perfect his skillset, Zeid doesn’t necessarily believe that an education in fashion is essential for every aspiring designer. “A lot of great fashion designers didn’t go to fashion school and I’ve always had this idea, that if you want something so bad you make it work one way or another,” he asserts. “So if you can’t attend fashion school, you find a way or if you can’t find a way then you go and do internships. In fashion, because you’re in fashion as well so you know, you really need to have the eye of the tiger all the time. It’s not necessary but of course I wouldn’t be as skilled as I am today if I didn’t go to CSM.”
“I’ve always had this idea, that if you want something so bad you make it work one way or another.”
Zeid isn’t wrong. Fashion is one of the toughest industries to enter, and yet one of the most overlooked. Whilst a specialised education will of course improve your skillset, being a fashion designer requires a talent that not everyone is born with. Luckily for Zeid, that was never an issue.
As for his participation at Fashion Trust Arabia, Zeid had applied over a whim. “I was like I don’t want to do this, I’m not going to get in, I’m not going to win or anything. So I completely forgot about it,” he admits to me. “I actually literally applied the last hour before the deadline… And on my birthday, they called and they were like, ‘hey, we just wanted to tell you that you’re shortlisted.’ And then when they said shortlisted, I was thinking, wait, what did I apply for?” After weeks of speaking to judges, which included Marc Jacobs, Olivier Rousteing, Elie Saab and Giambattista Valli, Zeid was told that he was the recipient of the Debut Talent Prize over a Zoom call.
“It’s great to have such a prestigious name next to your biography. The best experience I had was when I spoke to the judges, because these are like big, big judges that I’ve looked up to,” he shares with me. “What was most important to me is that they all sat together and they said that Zeid should be the winner. This recognition from these big names was the best thing that I’ve ever dreamed of. Because I was only 22. I was lost, I was chaotic. I didn’t know what I was doing, or if I was doing the right thing. And this win was more for me was like ‘okay, Zeid, you’re doing the right thing, keep doing what you’re doing.'”
“What was most important to me is that they all sat together and they said that Zeid should be the winner. This recognition from these big names was the best thing that I’ve ever dreamed of.”
As for the future, I can’t help but get excited over the idea of attending Paris Fashion Week and seeing Zeid’s unparalleled vision and dreams come to life. After-all, he promised me a front row seat.