The first time I saw Jobedu T-shirts, it was during the Dubai International Film Festival last year, when I spotted a girl wearing a black tee with a big white heart on it and Arabic writing. I later found out the writing spelled out "One Love". Almost instinctually, as a gut reaction I knew I had to have something that irreverently attached to our modern culture, a reference to something so dark and tragic as that infamous black flag with white Arabic writing -- and yet showing so much heart. Literally. I asked the girl where she'd gotten it and she pointed me to a pop-up store inside the DIFF headquarters. The rest, as they say, is history. My story.
To me, fashion isn't so different from film or art. Actually, they are all one and the same. Each is an expression of something deep from within its creator, a means to reach out and touch the entire world in one swift move. That's Jobedu to a T, pardon the pun, because even the company's name was chosen with a particular intent. Jobedu is a nod to the Bedouins of Jordan -- "Bedu" in Arabic -- a people known for both their hospitality and resilience. Tamer AlMasri, one of the company's creators and founder described the meaning behind the choice in an interview in Venture Magazine.
[The Bedouins] are a people who make the most out of nothing, and that's exactly what every entrepreneur tries to do. You have to survive and flourish in very harsh environments, and as an entrepreneur, you get minimal help but you still have an idea that you want to push ... So the idea was why look far for a model for inspiration if it's right there?
But just as film has to inspire me at first viewing, fashion has to grab me into its world, its fantasy life beyond the actual clothing piece, at first sight. Jobedu's T-shirts are so special because when I wear one, I feel like I'm a different person. I imagine myself an explorer on the road to some wondrous adventure, like the woman here -- me -- holding this falcon -- not real -- at The Rove in Dubai. For that moment, while I took that photo, I felt like I was in the midst of a falconry exhibition, with a real majestical bird in the desert. And it could not have been possible without my beloved Jobedu T-shirt.
Do I believe that fashion, especially fashion with a heart coming from a company like Jodedu, can change the world? You betcha. Why? Because we are what we wear and we communicate through our looks. A T-shirt will start a conversation and that is all that is needed in today's world to bridge cultures and help us understand each other. A conversation, a moment when we look up from our connected devices and actually connect live to another human being.
Fashion will also change the world on a different level, when the clothing is made in a sustainable manner, and helps give back to the community. Check and check, as far as Jobedu is concerned.
I caught up with Shiam Kheetan, who is the Marketing Manager at Jobedu, to ask her and AlMasri a few questions about this nearly ten year-old company that started with a few hundred T-shirts sold at the market in Amman, Jordan, and now ships worldwide. The same company that crowdfunded to expand and is the perfect example of a self-sustainable, people-conscious start-up gone global from the Arab world.
Yes, fashion will change the world, and for the better of course.
Who are the creative powers behind Jobedu and how did you all decide to start this company?
Shiam Kheetan: Jobedu started back in 2007, when two high school best friends, Tamer AlMasri and Michael Makdah, decided to start an Arab brand inspired by the Arab pop culture in order to give our culture the attention and recognition it deserves globally. They printed 6 designs on 600 T-shirts and started selling in one of the most popular street markets in Amman, Souk Jara. People were loving it and kept flocking to our booth everyday! Then we started looking for local talents to collaborate with and support through creating these Arab pop culture-inspired designs. Awesome designs kept coming in and two years later, we opened our first community store in one of the oldest, most artistic neighborhoods of Amman -- Jabal Al Lweibdeh. Then in 2012 we opened the second community store in a more modern neighborhood in Amman, Abdoun. Not to mention our online store where we ship to anywhere in the world.
Is there something about you as a company that we, the consumers, don't know yet?
Tamer AlMasri: Jobedu is an unfolding experiment that is dedicated to exploring new territories all the time.
Do you think that humor, as you so seamlessly build into your T-shirts, is an important part of life?
Kheetan: Humor has been a very important part of the brand, whether it's on T-shirts, in customer service or the brand's persona in general. With all the misery happening around us, we at Jobedu think that people in the MENA region desperately need humor to help them get by. People in general go through tough times, if a person does not keep a positive attitude and energy, they won't be able to survive. So the whole Jobedu experience is all about spreading art and happiness. We want to make people's days.
What has been the response to the company and what's your most prized achievement through it?
Kheetan: It has been quite an awesome awesome journey, we're blessed with amazing fans from all over the world. The most prized achievement is the ability to provide youth with careers, creative spaces for Arab talents. One achievement we're so proud of is the awesome love we receive on a daily basis.
One challenge and one advantage of owning Jobedu?
AlMasri: One challenge: wearing formal clothes. One advantage: our proximity to the region's cultural renaissance.
And finally, if you could have the perfect celebrity wearing your T-shirts who would that be?
Kheetan: Will Smith is perfect for Jobedu -- he's really cool, chill and funny.
All images courtesy of Jobedu, used with permission.