I was honoured to meet with Tamer AlMasri, one of the amazingly driven co-founders of beloved Jordanian brand, Jobedu. We talked about how the company has developed in their nearly 10 years of business, as well as exciting future projects and collaborations.
How has Jobedu developed since 2007?
A lot has changed since we started in 2007, and a lot is changing still. Back then, we still didn’t have our own space; we were still fresh and selling from a Friday market. In 2008, we had one of our first interviews with VIVA magazine, showcasing the first real collection from the Jobedu brand; people started coming to us holding the magazine as if it was our own catalogue!
How did it all start?
We opened our first store in 2009 in Weibdeh on Bayounieh Street. The idea was to work with designers and have them submit designs. It was open to the public so anyone could submit designs, and it introduced us to a lot of great and creative talents. For example, we met Mothanna Hussein from Warsheh and Lutfi Zayed as well as a lot of other big names that are often spoken about today both in Jordan and abroad. We have worked with designers from across the region, including Egypt and Iran.
Can you tell me about the Mid-Summer Nights collection?
The Mid-Summer Nights collection was created by three Persian designers.
We wanted to keep working with the concept of themed collections, but without it being open to the whole public. It became more curated, as we moved from system of open submissions from everyone to one of curated art.
How do people react to your Arabic designs?
You don’t have to be an Arab to understand it and buy it. A lot of people would come asking about a specific design because they liked the visual, but without necessarily understanding what it really means. For example, the Agwa No3 shirt – when people learn that it means “ the strongest,” they love it and buy it, not just because it looks cool, but because it reflects who they are.
Can you tell us about Al-Thaqafeh Street project?
Our creative team works hard to come up with every new theme; we study trends, we study what’s working, we study what we want to be associated with, and come up with the theme that we want to push. For example, we have Al-Thaqafeh Street, which is to pay homage to Al-Thaqafeh Street – the most ironic thing to happen to Arab pop culture in Jordan. The street was made to bring thaqafeh (culture) to the people, but when it actually came, along with the skaters and rappers, the police kicked them out. So we want to celebrate that; we want to spread awareness through art and fashion.
So we began by going back to 2008 to see who was there at that time and where they are now. For example, Amir Taha started writing poetry there, then he got introduced to the band, 962. Now he is a musician and has his own style of music. Another example is Mohammad Zakaria: he started skateboarding there and now he has an international skateboarding brand, Philadelphia Skateboards. The designs of the Al-Thaqafeh Street t-shirts, along with our skateboards and our newly introduced caps, will be a reflection of Al-Thaqafeh Street. After we wrap up with Al-Thaqafeh Street, we will start with the next project, Back to School.
What are your plans for the future?
This year we won’t just be working with designers, but we are also going to work with writers and musicians. The plan is to have them all work together around the same theme. We will create videos featuring original music by people from the community, with an “underground” kind of feel, making for a multi-media cultural exposé. Our stores are going to start reflecting this idea: they will be revamped to look more like art galleries, with white space that continuously evolves and changes to celebrate a specific new collection, without losing our basic setup.
We have a list of a lot of things we want to explore in the future. As a creative cultural brand, we are going to be involving selective people. There is so much that hasn’t been done yet, and once you travel you realise how culture in other countries in the West has developed and incorporated pop culture into the mix. Everything really is interlinked.
If you think about the toys we played with as kids here in Jordan, they had nothing to do with our culture – most all of them came from other places. It’s crazy when you think about the amount of culture that we consumed in our childhood that is not ours. This continues into adulthood; you feel like you are detached from these cultures because it’s not ours, as if you created it in a fantasy world.
At Jobedu, we celebrate our projects through articles, music videos, exhibition spaces and online engagement. This is the only way it’s going to work, so we come up with a theme and then we push it all the ways we can. We also have fun with it: we open stores that are basically just gallery spaces in different cities like Dubai, Tokyo and Vienna, where we can meet people and get them involved and sharing our culture.
Do you have a favourite design?
The camel crossing is classic, and I’m sure it will always be our favourite. I think it reflects our journey: how we started selling t-shirts at a Friday market, just me and Michael Makdah, [the other co-founder], and now, nine years later, we are having a conversation about opening more stores all over the world!