By Bahaa Al Deen Al Nawas – Sep 25,2016

AMMAN — Recycling waste and preserving the environment are global concerns that require innovative solutions, and with “Kees Chic”, designer Diana Rayyan is proving that the challenge can be met without compromising style.

A fashion brand and social enterprise, Kees Chic held a pilot launch on Saturday in Amman, but Rayyan has been working on the initiative since 2013, creating products like bean bags, yoga mats, clutches and laptop cushions using plastic bags.

The aim of the enterprise is to reduce plastic bag waste and boost women’s employment. Kees Chic’s team comprises 27 women in Jeddah — including Yemenis, Sudanese and Eritreans — 13 in the Jerash Refugee Camp for Palestinians and four women in the Gaza Strip.

Five women from the Jerash camp, locally known as the Gaza camp, who are working with Kees Chic, attended the launch and said that the idea of using plastic bags to make products was new to them, but that their experience in crochet helped them to pick it up quickly.

“We need promotion and support in order to grow the enterprise,” one of the women told The Jordan Times during the launch event.

The bean bags, among the largest products, are each made of 1,500 plastic bags and take seven days to stitch together, plus additional time to clean and cut the used bags.

The launch event showcased Kees Chic products, which were for sale, while a looped video showed the production process from the collection, cleaning and cutting of bags to the creation of the final product.

Louisa Harris-Halabi, owner of B Bag Designs, said that she met Rayyan during Amman Design Week (ADW) where she was impressed by the designer’s ability to gather women from different places to work in an enterprise that preserves the environment through the collection of plastic bags.

“Going into Gaza camp in Jerash, persuading women to clean, sort by colour, cut up and then crochet together the variety of products made by hand, this helps women of the community of all ages to get together and work, which is something done by women in all communities worldwide,” Halabi said.

Rayyan showcased Kees Chic products at ADW, where she also led a workshop teaching participants to create coasters adorned with patterns inspired by Islamic art using embroidery and “upcycling”.

ADW event included exhibitions, workshops and talks featuring over 60 local and international designers held at Raghadan Tourist Terminal, the Jordan Museum, and Ras Al Ain Gallery’s Hangar.

Fatima Almana, a retiree from the UN Economic and Social Commission for West Asia, said she also met Rayyan at the ADW and purchased some of the products as gifts for her family.

Almana said that the initiative helps raise awareness of the importance of reusing plastic bags, which could in turn help shift society’s overall mentality to stop littering and start recycling waste.

Alice Crabtree, an Australian working at the British embassy, said that Kees Chic is a “creative and innovative way to address a problem that is worldwide”, which benefits the community.

Rayyan said the initiative collaborated with “Tqween”, their legal umbrella and that Hikma Pharmaceuticals provided some funding to enable her to train the women and conduct the event, with the help of Mary Nazzal-Batayneh, the founder of Landmark Hotel, who provided the venue for the launch.