#DontIgnoreMe : Angela Luna's Ode to the Refugee Crisis
Okay to begin, I will be completely honest in sharing that this is the third article I've written about this amazing lady. While she was a student at Parson's, I covered her work for The Style Almanac, sharing her incredible designs that transform into tools for victims of our current global refugee crisis.
With around 5 million Syrian refugees currently displaced from their homes, it is easy for those unaffected to look at these people as just a number. However, the severity of the violence, prejudice, and vulnerability experienced by these refugees is not to be overlooked. "I am not Syrian nor Muslim, but I am human, which implores me to identify with the heart breaking and disturbing events occurring in the Middle East," explains the B.F.A. Fashion Design graduate, "Using the only medium I know best, I am attempting to offer my understanding of the issue through fashion."
Angela's senior thesis collection has made headlines around the world for her practical use of fashion design in order to create pieces that can transform into tools for victims of the Syrian refugee crisis. Her collection, entitled "Design for Difference," contains a series of jackets and backpacks, which convert into resources for survival. "It is a statement of current events: not making a trend out of tragedy, but channeling major global issues into fashion. It is as much as a political statement as a fashion statement. Fashion is often considered superfluous and detached from global concerns, and now is the time to create change. "
Not only was Angela named one of Forbes' 30 Under 30 for her innocative designs, this past Fall, Angela was able to travel to Greece to work first-hand with refugees, ensuring that her designs served their true purpose. I'm thrilled to have her guest blog today and tell us all about her incredible journey.
At the end of 2016, I had the opportunity to travel to the refugee camps in Greece on an aid distribution trip, with Carry the Future, a small nonprofit organization that gives baby carriers to refugee families. I was a member on their distribution team, helping with carrier fitting and handing out diapers, while also testing my collection on the side, whenever I got the chance.
The conditions in the camps were dismal, with families of six or twelve sleeping on the floors of isobox sheds, tents, or in some cases, on the ground. The supplied food is flavorless and often heated up in microwaves, and there is never enough. There is never enough of anything. Most of the charity work within the camps was done by small, local organizations; as it seems that UNHCR and IRC came in to set up the camps, and then left. One of the camps that we visited was entirely run by a refugee who was living there.
Given these horrible circumstances, the resilience of the people living in the camps is absolutely astounding. Here they are, a thousand miles away from home, trying to make the best out of a shit situation. I coined the phrase "making olive oil out of olives" while walking around one of the camps in Lesvos. The majority of the trees within the camp were olive trees, generously offering their produce to the people in need. Many of the women in the camps were quick to harvest this opportunity, and created delicious olive preserves and oils for their families. While they were not allowed to cook at this camp and did not have kitchens in their units, the olives added a more exciting layer of flavor to their bland lunches. I thought this phrase truly embodies the people living in the Greek refugee camps, and their resilience and determination to carry on.
Within the camps, the response to the collection was 100% positive. The garments generated such excitement, as little girls ran from tent to tent, telling their friends and neighbors to come outside and try on these amazing jackets. The need for the clothing was there, and the concept was proven. At each camp, it became obvious just how much these products would facilitate the daily lives of refugees, and ensure more comfort and safety. These people need these garments, and they needed them months ago. The only downside of testing was that I wasn’t able to leave my samples there.
Part of the reason why I think the project was such a success within the camps was because it allowed these people to escape from their current situation through something so light as fashion. For just a moment, they did not have to worry about their asylum status or what comes next, and they can have a human moment interacting with the clothes. As someone who had been criticizing the frivolity of fashion for the past year, it was interesting to see how this aspect could be a positive, not a negative. This experience enlightened me as to how universally uplifting fashion can be, when used for good.
Support Angela's campaign #DontIgnoreMe, which will help produce reflective reversible jackets for refugees:
Special thank you to Angela Luna & ADIFF brand