5 Sustainable Fashion Companies Where Refugees Make the Products
~A guide to shopping for unique artisan-made goods handmade by refugees~
Our society is facing a multitude of challenges – one of the most significant ones being the displacement of people. Did you know that there are now more people forcibly displaced from their homes than in any other time in human history? Even more that during World War Two. According to Amnesty International, refugees, asylum seekers or those displaced internally due to conflict, violence, or persecution was at an estimated 65.3 million by the end of 2015. To put that into perspective, that’s one in every 113 people on the planet. Of those, 21.3 million people had no choice but to escape to another country – those are the refugees. It’s truly a humanitarian crisis - one that is difficult to watch passively – don’t you think? If you agree then you may be wondering what we can do individually to support these people who were once engineers, embroiderers, chefs, shopkeepers, and teachers back at home and left everything behind.
One way we can help is by buying products from those companies that support refugees or sell refugee-made goods. Actively seek out which companies actually do this. That’s conscious consumerism. We can use our purchasing decisions as a powerful tool for positive change. Don’t worry, we’ve done the research for you! Here we’ve compiled a list of five companies that educate, train, and provide employment opportunities to refugees, ensuring they have the tools they need to succeed in their new homes.
GAIA Empowered Women
GAIA is a clothing and accessories company that employs artisan women from around the world. The company’s mission is to provide dignified work, continued training and a living wage to refugee women who have resettled in Dallas, Texas. GAIA pieces are handmade using vintage, artisan-made, & sustainable materials, and above all, they’re stunning. The name "GAIA" means, "Goddess of the Earth" – and was chosen as a way to honor all women, the ones making and those supporting the makers.
Indego Africa’s beautiful baskets and accessories are handmade by female artisans and Burundian women in the Mahama Refugee camp in Rwanda. The company provides education and income opportunities as well as innovative designs, training, and global market placement so that these women can earn a sustainable income and grow. In addition to being ethically-responsible, the company strives to be as environmentally-friendly as possible in the production of the products by sourcing from local markets and farms and works to reduce waste by using recycled materials, repurposed fabric scraps, and other salvaged textiles across product lines.
Volta Atelier’s luxurious handbags are handstitched and made from leather that has been overproduced by other brands. The textiles are carefully edited and designed based on how much is available. This means every piece is limited, if not one of a kind. “Volta” means "to give back" in Portuguese and it’s the backbone of the brand’s ethos. The company works with women artisans who are Haitian refugees living in Brazil, giving them a living wage while they work from home, so that they can be close to their families.
Sabahs are essentially really versatile slip-on shoes with a hardy sole, but there’s so much more to them than that! There’s a fascinating history and a great social cause. The original version of these shoes have been crafted in this ancient part of southeast Turkey, Gaziantep, for centuries. Each pair of Sabahs is handmade by a team of craftsmen in the Gaziantep-based workshop, which has been around since 1887. The workshop now employs over thirty craftsmen (including two women refugees from Aleppo). Gaziantep is currently the largest refugee center in the world.
The Social Outfit
The Social Outfit is an Australian non-profit organization that’s also an ethical fashion brand that works with refugees and new migrants with sewing experience to provide training and jobs in the fashion industry. In addition to the charity’s social mission, the Social Outfit is also environmentally sustainable - 50% of the fabric used to make the clothing is industry donated.