By Chiara Spagnoli Gabardi
I’m just gonna say it – the world is messed up. From Iraq and Syria to Libya and Afghanistan, the things the NATO countries and Israel have been doing to people in the Middle East and Africa are just unspeakably horrific. No wonder we have a major refugee crisis around the world.
Imagine the situation of a refugee. They have no papers, no passports, no means of travelling anywhere legally. No jobs, no homes, no security. All refugees hope to return home one day, but some, such as those exiled from Palestine, have been refugees for three generations.
Refugees are just as educated and ambitious as those who have the luck of living in war-free areas. Most of them are young and knowledgeable, yet due to a lack of job opportunities and inadequate infrastructure, they struggle with poverty. Hundreds of thousands often find themselves in one square kilometre of land, in camps where they have no chance of accomplishing themselves. But a few kind hearted brands in the fashion community are now helping refugees to turn their fate around.
Meet the ethical fashion brands helping refugees – and remember: every purchase helps someone in need.
Young refugees are the artists behind the Orenda Tribe, a T-shirt brand from Jordan founded by Zaid Souqi. It features children’s art from refugee camps and less fortunate communities. This label is ethical all round – their fabric is eco-friendly in the use of fabrics (100% cotton), water-based silk screen dyes and recycled packaging. In regards to social sustainability The Orenda Tribe provides manufacturing jobs to benefit the less fortunate communities. We love the cute, childish graphics on the tees, and the meaning behind the name: Orenda means a mystical force present in all people that empowers them to affect the world, or to effect change in their own lives. How cool is that?
PaleStyle is a Dubai based luxury brand founded in 2009 by entrepreneur Zeina Abou Chaaban to provide jobs to refugee women. They are the artisans behind the sophisticated creations comprised of intricate, handmade Arabic calligraphy spelling out messages of hope such as ‘peace’ and ‘no war’ in metalwork and embroidery. Their suitcases and handbags are distributed worldwide, and their social messages end up in high-end department stores, like House of Fraser and Bloomingdales, as well as in the wardrobes of celebrities such as Eva Longoria. PaleStyle also helps refugees by supporting development projects such as an Olive Tree Plantation in Palestine, as well as a Water Tank Exchange Program and Refugee Children’s Community Library in Jordan.
Winner of the Best Accessories category in the 2018 Eluxe Awards, Beirut based Vanina is an elegant jewellery and fashion brand that has partnered with NGOs to help refugee camps by raising money through handcrafted collections. From pearl-bead embellished robes and slinky dresses to quirkily cool jewellery, each piece is created by upcycling discarded materials. We adore the ‘message’ bracelets and earrings! Perfectly stackable, they carry cute phrases like ‘Que sera sera’ or ‘Nerd loves maths’ or ‘To the moon and back’. They’re the perfect gift for your bestie, sister, mom…or yourself!
4. Sep Jordan
If you’ve got a thing for hand embroidery, you’ll love Sep Jordan’s dress hems, belts, bags, knitwear and accessories. This ethical brand is created by Palestinian refugee women, whose cross-stitching techniques have been passed down from generation to generation. Sep Jordan’s founder, Roberta Ventura, decided it was time for these marginalised women’s wonderful needlework to get the recognition they deserve from international markets.
Re:new Project creates a multitude of handmade and timeless fashion pieces from homeware to handbags, and even gorgeous little baby blankets. The artisans who create these items are refugee women who have settled in Chicago after escaping war, persecution or political conflict. The Re:new Project was developed as a means of offering free training and providing flexible employment for women from different countries, and has become a solace for these women as they’re now provided with a space to thrive as they rebuild their hopes and dreams.
6. Deux Mains
Deux Mains is a spin-off Haitian business and ethical fashion brand from REBUILD globally, a nonprofit organisation that was created in response to the devastating 2010 earthquake in Haiti. Founder Julie Colombio realised that the women who survived the disaster were looking for ways to help themselves recover, and so she opened a small training center in order to instruct these women on how to make sandals from tires found in the streets. Fast forward five years and Deux Mains is now a ethical fashion brand that creates gorgeous, handmade products from the artisans of Haiti.