This label’s new collection is inspired by their experience as queer Palestinians
But look a little further. At the pool, a model is actively restrained and arrested. Zippers hang from the belts. Images of gay Arab icons are glued to some of the skirts, as well as sleeveless muscular floats that feature Armenian prints as an ode to the Armenian culture and people of Jerusalem. Here Lawrence, who is from East Jerusalem and is Palestinian of Armenian descent, along with his co-designer Omar Braika, a Palestinian refugee who lives in Jordan, wanted to refer to the checkpoints and ongoing inspections that the Palestinians must cross while trying to cross from Israel, while also addressing perceptions of gay culture in the Middle East.
Lawrence looked at photographs of Palestinians arrested in his neighborhood from activestills.org, to inform the collection. A women’s tank top is sewn upside down to the back to mimic the way a man’s tank top crumples when held up and handcuffed. In another case, a pair of pink leather flared pants shows the contour of the pelvic region. “You have those warm flared pants, but the crotch area is marked off to inspect that area, like ‘inspect my body without permission,’” says Braika.
For Lawrence to visit his friends in Ramallah, Palestine, he had to wait up to two hours to pass a checkpoint, when without a checkpoint the journey would only be about 20 minutes. To move on quickly, Lawrence and his friends often dress in lighter outfits, in hopes of appearing more Western or foreign. In turn, Trashy Clothing emphasizes this point with pieces that are as easily removable as possible, using accessible zippers and exaggerated briefs. “People are often vetted over their appearance, so if you dress less you’re less likely to get arrested,” says Lawrence. “When I was younger and we went out, we put foreign music, like Italian music, in the car so that we wouldn’t be asked for ID. If we wore jackets, we would take them off. It is the concept of undressing and being ready to undress at all times.
Lawrence and Braika have included kitsch odes to Arab pop stars whom they consider gay icons of the early 2000s, including Lebanese artist Haifa Wehbe, Egyptian singer Sherihan and Maria, an Armenian-Lebanese pop star. “They expressed their sexual side which, growing up, was so new. As queer people, we’ve seen them claim their sexuality and their bodies, their words and their voices, ”says Lawrence. Many pieces from Trashy Clothing’s latest collection are inspired by these clips, including a sleeveless tank top and red pants from Wehbe’s “Ebn El Halal”. Sherihan’s face is also printed on a t-shirt and leggings while Maria’s face appears on a skirt.
These two designers are used to making political statements. In 2018, they presented a track in Berlin that featured a wall obstructing the view for half of the audience, a divide that represented that between Palestine and Israel. Lawrence and Braika embrace the discomfort. “It’s part of our brand identity, superficiality mixed with pain,” says Lawrence. “It is about contradictions, teaching, raising awareness, encouraging consumers to buy clothes not only for their aesthetics but also for their history.