'Cartoon-like illustrations, colours and a funky aesthetic' is how Tania Haddad describes her eponymous brand, Tania George. With an international education and experience in the fashion spheres of Amman, Lugano, Florence and New York under her belt, Haddad returned to Jordan's capital to start her own label: a ready-to-wear line printed with playful illustrations that are reminiscent of '90s advertising culture (think milk cartons and bags of cotton candy). Balancing simple silhouettes with intricate, unique designs and a palette of pastel hues, the homegrown brand is a tribute to Jordan and the country's heritage: in the stories it tells; in the talented local tailors it employs; in the nostalgia it captures. We caught up with Haddad on everything from her own style icon to the future of streetwear.
Harper's BAZAAR Arabia: How did your interest in fashion develop?
Tania Haddad: I’ve always been creative; as a little girl I knew that it was maybe the only thing I was good at. I would spend my days drawing and painting. In my teenage years, I started to notice fashion as an art. I explored my aunt’s collection of Moschino suits and became aware of how much information you can get from one jacket. I realised I could actually combine art and fashion and as it turned out, that was my favourite combination.
HBA: When did you know you wanted to pursue a career in fashion?
TH: Fashion is a tricky industry to be in - to this day I'm never certain I want to pursue it...Jokes aside, I knew for a long time that I wanted a career in fashion, but it wasn't until I returned to Amman after completing my studies and gaining experience in the working world that I realised my path was to open my own brand and express my perception of Jordan through clothes.
HBA: How does Amman inform your designs?
TH: Amman in general has always been my inspiration; I find it motivates me and pushes me to tell its stories.
I wouldn’t say its fashion scene specifically has influenced me, but I do love observing new styles on the streets in downtown Amman. Even if I'm not always inspired, I'm still happy to see individuals with such distinctive styles these days. Back when I was a child, I would notice that everybody conformed to a specific look, but that's no longer the case.
I love simply observing the environment around me in Jordan, to understand our behaviour and why things are done in one way over another. Understanding the world around me is inspirational enough.
HBA: Do you have a style icon?
TH: My aunt Nivin back in the '90s, with her big curly hair and matching suits. She was the one that introduced me to all these tailored outfits and taught me to match my colours and prints well.
HBA: What's a must-have wardrobe staple?
TH: My Dr. Martens Loafers. Although they're black, they go with all my Tania George outfits, are super comfortable and are wearable in both summer and winter - I think I wear them 365 days of the year...
HBA: What led you to start your own business?
TH: It’s always been a dream of my mine: to design and tell stories through the clothes. But it wasn’t until I realized we needed these types of clothes in Jordan that I started designing the items missing from my closet.
HBA: Talk us through your latest collection and the inspiration behind it.
TH: Our Chibs, Bibs, Canary collection is a journey through a typical Amman summer - filled with cotton candy, bushar and endless 7arra nights. It's a representation of how fun those days were. We all relate to those memories: your average local candy vendor roaming the streets, never-ending trips to the supermarket culminating in the chips packet purchase that absolutely hit the spot. Summer as a kid, you could say.
HBA: Why do you think there has been a wave of nostalgia around '90s fashion and pop culture?
TH: I think everybody wants to go back to the era in which they were born. It gives them a sense of security and belonging. Personally, I always love watching old movies or buying vintage clothes and antiques; it gives me a certain warm feeling. Going back to a time when I was growing up and finding references from the past gives me the biggest kick, because it feels so close to me. We’re all somehow still connected to our childhood and past.
HBA: How do you blend tradition and modernity in your designs?
TH: That's the ultimate combo! The only way to get these two in balanced quantities is working with people who already produce these handcrafts and then adding the modern touch. For example, I would give Um Bayan, our lovely hand-embroiderer, a cartoon-like sketch of what I want her to embroider. With her traditional background and her expertise, the outcome is usually amazing! I invite a lot of input from these women and that’s key to getting the perfect blend.
HBA: Why is that important to you that the garments be handmade by regional tailors?
TH: Being able to trace back where your pieces were made is crucial, and when the production line is small and intimate you feel the love and emotion that goes into each piece. In the long run, I want this brand to always stay true to itself and where it comes from. Jordan is our main inspiration and we aim to bring out as much as we can from our hometown, be it in the production or in the story behind the design. Our tailors are all carefully selected and work magic from their homes around Amman to come up with our unique pieces. The brand will always represent Jordan and our heritage. Documenting old and new, the hidden gems of everyday life in Jordan, the things surrounding us as we grew up in the '90s and the sights we witness every day. The only way to portray these through a garment is through the genuine feelings and convictions that come with them!
HBA: Where do you see 'Middle Eastern streetwear' in five years' time?
TH: I see streetwear dying a bit. People will go back to tailoring their trousers to ensure they look immaculate. I'll be disappointed that we won't wear our sneakers as often, but I'm sticking with my Dr. Martens...
I think brands and people will look into more sophisticated cuts and appreciate tailored silhouettes. I like that thought; it will give more importance to cuts and designs. As an Arab, I am proud to see so many young emerging designers develop their labels - they're all brilliant!
Photography: Omar Shaheen
Art Direction & Styling: Miramar and Omar Shaheen
Models: Miramar, Joanna Arida and Dania Manna