The Trials and Tribulations Of Palestine's First Lingerie Company
Having access to lingerie stores is a luxury that many women in the Middle East unfortunately don’t have. While big name brands like Victoria’s Secret can be found in the bigger cities like Dubai, many women, due to the intense import taxes and package inspections throughout the Middle East, are struggling to find properly sized bras and underwear in the smaller cities. Such circumstances have forced Palestinian women to turn to local vendors for their undergarments, bartering for intimates with men who just don’t get it.
It’s a very uncomfortable experience, one which inspired Palestine-based entrepreneurs Christina Ganim and Nicole Isabel to create Kenz, a high-end lingerie retailer that caters specifically to Middle Eastern women. The retail site was created in 2015, and operates out of the West Bank, where the two female founders reside. Ganim told i-D, “We could pick up and move to Dubai or Jordan, but that’s not our aim. This is a Palestinian company. Our goal is to be based here and contribute to a Palestinian economy, hopefully creating jobs one day — being able to serve the entire Middle Eastern region from our computers.”
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Ganim and Isabel’s top priority with Kenz is to teach Palestinian women that lingerie doesn’t have to be worn solely to impress your significant other—that you can wear cute lingerie for yourself too. And the idea is catching on amongst conservative Palestinian women. Since 2012—the year a decree was passed in Saudi Arabia that finally allowed women to work in lingerie shops—there have been an increasing number of Saudi women joining the lingerie business. And by allowing women to work in lingerie stores, the decree has made other women feel more comfortable to go out and shop for bras and underwear.
Yet despite the strides that the lingerie business in the Middle East has made, Kenz still faces setbacks. As a territory that’s constantly under attack and involved in endless land disputes, the West Bank isn’t exactly the best place for a lingerie business (let alone any business). In fact, Ganim and Isabel are entirely unable to deliver their products to the Gaza Strip. But if you think that’s stopped them, you’d be wrong; now they just personally deliver the shipments to customers in Palestine. “We were thinking as a short term solution, we would deliver the products ourselves to women in the West Bank. But that’s not a long-term strategy!” Ganim said. Regardless, the brand has already seen immense success. If the brand continues to do well and grow, then they’ll begin to design and sell their own lingerie additionally to the brands that they currently offer.
Photos via i-D.
Stay tuned to Milk for more on gender equality in the Middle East.