Upcoming Fashion Designer Solves a Huge Refugee Problem

Angela is a Fashion Designer from the US, she just graduated and used her bachelor thesis to create a fashion collection that is simple and can have multiple uses. The fashion created is targeted for refugees and coats turn to tents, sleeping bags, child carriers and so on. Here is our interview with this up and coming inspiration:

  1. Can you please tell us a bit about who you are, where you went to college and why did you choose fashion?
    I am Angela Luna, a recent graduate of Parsons the New School for Design in New York. I grew up in Beverly, Massachusetts, a small town outside of Boston.Ever since I was a young child, I always knew I wanted to design clothes. Fashion found me at a very young age; when I was 10, I knew I wanted to go to Parsons because it is the best fashion school in the U.S.Adiff Collection
  1. Your latest project went viral, can we know the whole story? Like how you came up with it?When?
    This collection for me really came from a sense of helplessness. For the past few years, I have always tried to be involved in current events. One night I was up late researching the Refugee Crisis, it was just after there had been another horrible boat crash in the Aegean Sea, and I felt this overwhelming sense of empathy and desire to offer whatever I can to help these people. But I live in New York. I study fashion. Besides donating to a refugee charity, it did not seem like I could do much. The next day at class, as my professors and classmates were discussing the latest runway shows, I found myself reflecting on how distant this issue was from our daily lives – how could we be sitting in this classroom, acting as if people are not dying on the other side of the world? I questioned whether or not I should be in the industry, whether or not I should even be in fashion? So later that week I informed my professors that I was going to change the concept for my thesis to focus on the Refugee Crisis. At that point, I had no idea what the end result would look like, I just knew that I wanted to help, and since my skill set was in design and fashion, I had no other choice. This was back in September, a few weeks into my final year at Parsons.
  1. What difficulties did you face? And how did you overcome them?
    A coat that turns into a sleeping bag
    A coat that turns into a sleeping bag

    After I decided to focus on the refugee crisis, the next step was figuring out which problems could be addressed through design. Although I wish I could address all the problems I noticed, I had to select ones that could potentially be resolved throughout the course of my thesis – actually several jackets didn’t even get designed until the second portion of the year, when I could approach the problem from a different standpoint. This was done through massive amounts of research from articles, image collection, videos, and interviews with humanitarian agencies. After identifying the problems came the incredibly difficult task of engineering of the garments, which in a several cases involved making free-standing structures. Usually with fashion, you need to be sure it just stays on the body, but in my case it also had to stand up by itself, battling gravity. The design development took the longest of all, but also was the most rewarding. It was mostly trial and error for a long while to figure out how to get the jackets to actually work. I tested the garments myself and tried to get feedback from humanitarian agencies and volunteers.

  1. How is the project developing?
    Right now the most development is related to the business side of things. I’m trying to secure the best possible investors and partners before proceeding. The clothes are still in the prototype phase, and I hope to travel to Europe sometime soon and do further testing at the refugee camps there, and work with factories to better perfect the jackets.
A coat that turned into a tent
A coat that turned into a tent
  1. What stage are we at currently?
    Definitely the startup phase! It is a one-woman show right now and I am in charge of all of it. It is in the early stages, but it is exciting because these are the moments when I can define how I want everything to be for the next few years.
  1. When can we see the clothes in Greece for the refugees?
    I am in conversation with the International Rescue Committee and United Nations now. One thing they mentioned was to be open minded about the clothes being donated to refugees from other regions as well. Although the focus for this first collection was Syrian refugees, I do see this project being able to assist all refugees, regardless of their origin. Hopefully the clothing can be distributed worldwide to refugees at some point next year. Once I have a more concrete idea about the exact number of donations and frequency, it will be easier to pinpoint where and when the clothes will be distributed.
  1. Have you thought about if the refugees stop pouring into Europe in the next year or so, how would the direction of the project be?
    I hope that would be the case, but unfortunately, I keep getting told that it will not stop. The surplus in refugees has been a global issue for years now, and it is unlikely that will end. As I mentioned in the question above, this project was focused on Syrian refugees, but could be applied to refugees from any area. It could also have applications in the U.S. or other nations with homeless population.
  1. Why do you think it is important to care about people so far away?
    Image via Parsons School of Design, Fiona Dieffenbacher
    Angela Luna & Donna Karan :Image via Parsons School of Design, Fiona Dieffenbacher

    We are all people. We are all humans. I may not personally know the family that has to escape Syria, but I can empathize with them. When tragedy like this is happening, it is important to care about everyone, not just the few people on this earth that you have met.

  1. What is the plan of action for the readers to help you realize this important project?
    Stay tuned until the collection releases for purchase and come buy the product! With any purchase, you will be helping someone in need. I’m trying to offer something for everyone, so it should not be hard to find something you like. And keep sharing the stories and spreading the word about the project.

Interviewed by Almustafa Mahmoud Khalid 

Collection Images via Jessica Richmond
Models: Katie Musial & Maher Saleh


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