To mark this year’s World Refugee Day, NRS International and award-winning social artist, designer and researcher at London College of Fashion, UAL, Professor Helen Storey, are launching the ‘#LoveCoats’ project to empower the TIGER Girls girls of Za’atari refugee camp in Jordan.
Thermal refugee blankets transformed into high fashion
As part of the UAE Year of Giving, NRS International donated 1,000 meters of thermal blanketing material to Professor Storey. The durable material meets UN Refugee Agency (UNCHR) specifications, and in 2016 NRS International sold 3.9 million of these blankets to leading aid agencies worldwide.
The #LoveCoats concept was created in conversation with the TIGER Girls and given life in Dubai during the annual DIHAD summit (Dubai International Humanitarian Aid & Development Conference & Exhibition) in March, under the auspices of H.H. Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President, Prime Minister of United Arab Emirates, Ruler of Dubai.
“When I first met Professor Storey at DIHAD, I was greatly inspired by her previous projects that use the power of fashion to address the world’s most pressing issues, such as the refugee crisis,” says NRS International Managing Director Farhaj Sarwar. “Professor Storey explained the fear of the refugee girls of being cold in winter. This led to our collaboration, which is in line with what we offer as a company, namely relief items. It was only a natural response to provide the blanket material. We are hugely impressed with the transformation of how one blanket can become so fashionable.”
TIGER Girls aiming high with #LoveCoats
The collaboration invites TIGER Girls (These Inspiring Girls Enjoy Reading) in Za’atari refugee camp in Jordan to participate in the #LoveCoats project. It aims to ultimately empower 1,250 adolescent girls through fashion and design and to develop their technical skills to make clothes to battle the next winter. It also serves to explore the TIGER Girls’ own identity and ambitions for the future.
“If hope is what we need in the world, then working with the TIGER Girls of Za’atari is where you can find it – from the moment I first met them and their coaches, it was clear that here, against all the odds, was female spirit and endeavor in abundance,” says Professor Storey when asked what it’s like to work with the girls. “They aim high, as they should, and anything we can do to continue to enable and help them reach their full potential as young women will serve us all – the world needs the TIGER Girls – they have much to teach us, too!”
Professor Storey will deliver the #LoveCoats project between 9-17 July, with the TIGER Girls designing the functional art for personal use in the winter.
Unprecedented refugee crisis
The #LoveCoats project is launched on World Refugee Day, which takes place on June 20 each year to shine a light on the courage and resilience of families forced to flee war or persecution. According to the UN Refugee Agency’s latest survey, global forced displacement has increased in 2016. By the end of the year, 65.6 million individuals were forcibly displaced worldwide as a result of persecution, conflict, generalised violence, or human rights violations. This is 300,000 more than the previous year, representing an enormous number of people needing protection worldwide.
Only the beginning
NRS International is committed to keep the #LoveCoats project rolling through its continued supply of blanket materials. Through this project, the design workshops will foster a creative learning environment for the TIGER Girls in the camps. They will have the opportunity to enhance their clothing design skills and pass it on to the younger girls – creating a legacy that will last for many years.
Both parties are also looking at a possible partnership with UAE Fashion Week in order to present various designs of the #LoveCoats on the catwalk in Dubai.
From Dubai to the world
Through the #LoveCoats project, NRS International hopes to raise awareness for the ongoing refugee crisis, in particular in the Middle East. At the same time, it also encourages private businesses to contribute and for the UAE residents to make a difference in the lives of those most in need.