Ko_lazh, a fashion company founded by Yiyala Eman Da Silva, differs by making action speak louder than words. Not only does she emphasize on the bad situation in Palestine by incorporating the Palestine scarf in her bags and clothing, but also practice what she preaches by donating the profits of her bags and dresses to Palestinian people.
Hiphopinjesmoel.com spoke with the interesting fashion designer to find out more about her background, the foundation of Ko_lazh and her love for Palestine people.

Tell me more about how ko_lazh was founded and who the person behind the brand is.
Ko_lazh existed from the moment I was born actually, but I just gave it a name a few months ago. Well I was born as Yiyala Eman Da Silva in Harlem New York to a Puerto Rican Muslim mother and a Brazilian father who was a member of the Black Panther party. I’ve travelled through parts of the world since I was a young child with my mother and I guess these experiences inspiring me to be the person who I am today… I always wanted to help the needy children and honestly my heart just weeps for the children in Palestine, what is happening there, the occupation… Illegal occupation if I may add…
I also must say that my father Emmanuel Da Silva always inspired me to stand up for what I believe in. He told me to not pay any mind to what others had to say, as long as I believed in myself and in what I am/was trying to do. Then it would always be possible to support myself 100%…Those words I guess, coming from a real revolutionary formed who I am today and where I stand in life. Also of course props to my mother who still helps me every day to be a better person… I love both my parents for that. Without them I wouldn’t be fighting for the cause as I am today. So that is me… Today officially Aliya, haha… in a nutshell.

Where does the name Ko_lazh come from?
Ko_lazh is the phonetic pronunciation of the word ‘collage’. I used this word to name my company because my company is made up of different ideas and I am mixing different cultures together…before I made handbags I made huge life sized collages by cutting and pasting all types of magazines together to send out a certain message, mostly political. It’s just me, my ideas, who I am, put together actually.

The main elements of the bag your designs are Palestinian scarves. Twenty percent of the money you make with the handmade bags is donated to charity to support Palestinian children. How did you come up with the idea to incorporate the scarves in your designs and why did you choose to support the Palestinians? Does your background has anything to do with it?
The idea to incorporate the Palestinian scarf (the keffiyah) in my designs has been an idea that has been lingering in my mind for a while now. I just wasn’t sure how to do it. I wanted to use it respectfully since it has such a political meaning. After a visit to Morocco last year and a long discussion with my sister, we came to the conclusion that if I used the keffiyah, then I would have to sponsor the children. Try to make a change for them… and since they were in my heart for the longest time I decided to make the move to start the movement.
The Palestinian fight is such a sad fight, unseen by the world alas. At times I would read about it and get so frustrated that people can go on living their lives not aware what is actually going on in the world and how certain people or organizations are taking over. Most people are actually funding this war by what they buy, spending mass amounts of money on making their lives better… but completely forgetting that there is actually a holocaust going on this moment as I am writing. The Palestinians are forgotten races who still exist. Who still breathe… who still fight… Palestine is at this moment the most malnourished place in the world… worse than Africa. But for some reason most of the world does not want to acknowledge it. I choose to acknowledge it, by using my bags to help the Palestinian children, I am trying to make a political statement and with that political statement it would only be fair to also really support the families in dire need in Palestine. My background really has little to do with this except for that my parents brought me into this world very aware. I am always ready to support the oppressed.

How can you make sure that your money will be spend the right way in Palestine, do you work with a local charity organization?
I work with Interpal.org, a charity organization who is at the moment doing great deeds to help and support the Palestinians. I’ve only started Ko_lazh and am already supporting 3 Palestinian families… have taken on the care of an orphaned child, a girl, and have planted multiple olive trees. Hopefully in the future I will be able to do more.

The traditional Palestinian scarf has become a symbol of support for the Palestinian people against the Israeli occupation. Palestinians might be offended by the way their scarves are being used for a commercial product. How do you feel about this?
This question reminds me of a question that someone asked earlier this month. So I think that I will answer it the same way I already have: my concern for the Palestinian struggle comes straight from the heart. I am not a Topshop designer trying to cash in on something that could be a trend. Allah has given me Islam and social awareness and I am utilising the creative talent I have to effect a change the only way I can. Everyone has their own struggle and perhaps we may not know the reality of how the Palestinian people inside ‘Israel’ live. I have actually had comments about this and to say we cannot understand it is naive and pretentious. And to scorn what someone else does – out of concern – for your own people, is insulting. We put in at least 30 hours a week making these bags… we are not Palestinian but I feel so much for the Palestinians that I felt I had to do something. I’m not begging favours, and I’m not vexed, but its comments like that that turn people away from wanting to help. In my experience Palestinians on the outside talk a lot but don’t do much.
I think honestly the only way to make more people aware is to make into a commercial product… in this way you actually increase awareness, support and funding. I am working with a Palestinian artist in London at the moment, Shadia Mansour, who supports Ko_lazh so much. She is such a wonderful person and really understands what I am trying to do. The support and love that I receive from brothers and sisters around the world is immense and I truly do feel blessed that I am able to do this.

What does the process look like of you designing apparel that is appealing to you as well as the target group?
To be honest, I just designed the bags the way I like bags, not in mind to market it to a certain group, Ko_lazh is for everyone who loves handbags/fashion and who are socially aware. I’m a bag lady!

What resources do you rely on for inspiration and fresh ideas?
Fresh ideas sprout just by reading the weekly reports sent to my inbox of Palestine. I make each bag unique depending on how I am feeling at that moment.

Tell me more about the new bags you designed in November and how they differ from the previous ones.
The new bags are made of leather or suede with only rabbit trimmings. I started out only making bags with rabbit fur but soon became aware that some people weren’t very happy with the use of rabbit fur, even though the rabbits that I use are actually eaten. I decided to also use leather so I could reach out the crowd who don’t support the use of fur.

I noticed a photo of MOD The Black Marvel on your website. Do you think it is important to have artists wearing your bags and promote the brand?
I do think that it is important to have positive people with a message supporting and using my bags. Mod the Black Marvel is actually my husband… in that way we support each others movement by promoting each other on our websites.

What projects can we expect from Ko_lazh in the near future?
I am thinking of starting a line to support Brazilian children, and from there on… who knows where I will end up. I would like to build wells… schools, homes for needy children. My fight will go on until I can make a change, even if it is a small change, It will be something. I see it this way… If I plant a seed, it may not be visible right now, but in the future it will grow spreading its branches. Spreading life… creating oxygen, new trees… and as long as those trees don’t get bulldozed, then my fight will have meaning.

For more information on Ko_lazh and to buy bags and dresses, logon to http://www.myspace.com/ko_lazh

Geplaatst door bowie op 1 januari 2007