Palestine: Tailors with a passion for fashion - DFID support helps two brothers breathe new life into their family business

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From its beginnings in 1946, the Mourad family business has seen off more than its fair share of challenges since Elias Mourad left Jerusalem in 1948 as a refugee, with just a sewing machine and a pair of scissors.

More recently his two sons have been working tirelessly to keep the business running while the Palestinian textile industry has been hit hard by export restrictions and cheap, poor quality imports.

"Given the stupid, uncertain atmosphere we are living in people think we are mad.

"But need is the mother of invention and we are confident in our ability to make high quality fashion that suits the local market", says Hani Mourad.

Having already established a successful made-to-measure service Ibrahim and Hani Mourad were determined to reach more customers with quality garments sold for realistic prices.

But finding finance had proved impossible, until they heard about the launch of the Facility for New Market Development (FNMD), a DFID funded initiative to help Palestinian businesses create new products and reach new markets.

They knew they needed to bring in fresh design talent, and understood the importance of tailoring designs to suit local tastes: Hani remembers returning from studying design in Paris in the late 70s and creating a "stunning jacket" for his parent's shop, taking great care to source the perfect ivory buttons.

The jacket went on display but none were sold until his mother, who ran the shop, changed the buttons, 'large bright and shiny', to sell 35 jackets in two weeks.

Hani adds, "We are very excited about this project, commissioning top European design and tweaking it to suit the local market."

Assistance from FNMD's client manager helped Murad commission a young fashion designer from Germany to help create a new range of designs.

The option to receive the designs electronically involve too many partners so the patterns are posted from the European studio.

The best fabric is then imported from all over the world for manufacture in their workshop in Bethlehem.

Basic patterns will last a number of years with changes in features, finish and fabric 'tailor-made' in response to customer orders.

Ibrahim and Hani Mourad unveiled 42 new designs on the catwalk at a recent fashion show at the Intercontinental Hotel in Bethlehem.

With the launch of the first of their new ranges under their belts their creativity continues.

Both are keen to find an effective way of featuring some elements of local embroidery in future designs and they remain passionately committed to the winning combination of European design, fabric from all over the world and high quality Palestinian workmanship.

Key facts

- Funded by DFID and backed by the World Bank, the Facility for New Market Development (FNMD) is a three-year grant scheme designed to help Palestinian companies enter new markets and develop new products.

- Marking its first year of operation in April 2009, FNMD already supports 195 companies from the West Bank and Gaza.

- The initiative provides grants and light technical assistance to businesses from all sectors including manufacturing, agribusiness, ICT, stone and marble, tourism, and handicrafts.

- It mainly supports small and medium-sized enterprises, including fledgling companies who have solid ideas on how to expand.