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Top 5 Refugee Artists you should Follow and Support Today.

Image by Valeria Alvarado

Artists should have the opportunity to continue and succeed in their career paths from wherever they are, with all the obstacles they may face there is always a way to overcome them. Especially when they are given a platform to express their artistic works, and when there are other creatives who see them and support them along this journey.

Céline Semaan, via @Theslowfactory

Using her work as an artist and designer, Céline Semaan brings attention to social issues around the globe. Céline is a Lebanese-Canadian artist, who happens to be a refugee. She founded The Slow Factory in 2012 when she was living in Montreal. Later moving to New York in 2013 to continue to expand The Slow Factory, which is not only a sustainable brand but a public service organization focusing on circular design, material innovation and addressing social inequity. The Slow Factory has become more than a brand to follow. It provides education, research, advocacy and empowerment to everyone but especially minority groups and new up and coming artists.

“Fashion is one of the most creative industries, so let’s see how creative we can be in solving these issues”, says Céline Semaan for Vogue.

Like Celine, others artists have had to flee their home, move to a new country, and start over leaving part of their lives behind. Here are 5 artists in the fashion realm who have not only made a name for themselves but support others along the way and who are yet to be more celebrated.

Illustration by Karim Adduchi, via @karimadduchi

One of them is Karim Adduchi who is an illustrator, painter and fashion designer born in Imzouren, Morocco. At age 5 he came to settle in Barcelona, Spain without knowing how to speak the language (Spanish and Catalan) he turned to drawing as a mean of self-expression. Karim attended the Institute of Fine Arts where he completed his art studies. Later on moved to Amsterdam to pursue his education in Fashion. He showcased his personal story and his heritage through a fashion collection, leading him to be included in Forbes Europe and Forbes Middle East 30 under 30 list, as one of the most influential designers to watch.

“Fashion has a loud voice in our society and if I can use that voice to bring positivism and hope, that means everything to me,” says Karim Adduchi for Vogue.

Blue Meet Blue Coat, via @bluemeetsblue

Another artist to watch is Shahd Alasaly an artist and social activist born in Syria, who has lived in the US since she was 2 years old. Shahd Alasaly is the founder of Blue Meets Blue, an initiative that marries social consciousness and ethical fashion in a clothing line. “When I learned we were facing the biggest refugee crisis since World War II, I wanted to find a way to help. So, I combined my background in psychology with my background in design”, says Shahd Alasaly for Allure magazine. The brand designs luxury fashion collections that are made by refugee artisans new to the U.S. Blue Meets Blue stands for endless freedom and connectedness, as free and connected as the blue of the ocean meeting the blue of the sky.

“We wanted to create a luxury clothing line that empowers refugees. We wanted them to find employment as soon as they arrived in the United States and we wanted them to work in their skill set” Shahd Alasaly, Allure magazine.

‘Gold Rush’ 2018 collection by Euphemia-Ann Sydney-Davies

Also wanting to give back and empower her community is Euphemia Sydney-Davies an artist from Sierra Leone, where a civil war broke out and she and her family were forced to flee the country. She moved from one refugee camp to another until eventually settling in the UK. Later Euphemia Sydney-Davies created her independent luxury fashion label that features a unique, statement, fashion-forward clothing. It was founded in 2013 after she had the opportunity to train her design skills at the Alexander McQueen house. Sydney-Davies brand has made strong advances in the fashion industry. Debuting in New York Fashion Week and being feature in Vogue, Dazed, and BBC to name a few. This gave her the opportunity to help the local community in her home country.

“I've trained and worked with those in the community who tend to be forgotten or pushed aside. Those who need it the most,” says Sydney-Davies for Design Magazine.

M.I.A via @miamatangi

And tapping into other artistic expressions is Rapper, Grammy nominee and activist M.I.A. Who was nine years old when she had to flee the war in Sri Lanka with her family and settled in England. Those experiences form her music and art, which draw attention to the struggles of refugees and immigrants. She started at Central Saint Martins, studying fashion and film, then worked her way into the music industry. Her debut album Arular was created to “Make every refugee kid that came over after me have something to feel good about. Take everybody’s bad bits and say, ‘Actually, they’re good bits. Now whatcha gonna do?”, says M.I.A for The Atlantic.

All 5 of these artists had to overcome various circumstances to get where they are today. Now with what they have created, they are paving the way for other artists like them who are trying to step into the fashion industry. Where is hard to find exposure especially when it comes to minority groups like refugees. Who might have had an stablished creative business in their home country, but due to unprecedented circumstances they had to leave it behind.

Is hard to start a new life in a place where you might not know the language, where you don’t know anyone and don’t have any connections to continue following your career path. Artists and brands like Céline Semaan’s Slow Factory, Shahd Alasaly’s Blue Meets Blue can make us question how can bigger corporations within the fashion industry help support and expose these artists? They are only a few that we know of, who are doing remarkable work in comparison to big fashion brands and cooperations that could open more doors.

IFA, TheUnthreadings by Valeria Alvarado

“The fashion industry is still a very exclusive industry and when it comes to minority groups, there are almost no platforms, that support or expose these designers”.Says Leonor, who is currently working on a fashion collection along side refugees who want to continue or start their creative careers. This came to be because of the initiative of IFA Paris to raise awareness on the need of inclusivity in the fashion industry. They have created a social program called The Unthreadings.

“Social programs like the one at IFA are a good starting point, to support refugees with creative ambitions. In my opinion there should be a lot more similar programs or scholarships”. says Leonor, CFD at IFA Paris.

This program and what all the other artists like Karim Adduchi, Shahd Alasaly, Céline Semaan, M.I.A and Sydney-Davies are doing is a starting point. The fashion industry has a long way to go when it comes to exposure of minority groups and inclusion. So hop on the boat, follow them, support them and bring yourself to learn more about them, you can start today!

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