fashion donors give refugees the dignity of choice

fashion donors give refugees the dignity of choice

<span>Photo: Martin Godwin / The Guardian</span>“src =”–/YXBwaWQ9aGlnaGxhbmRlcjt3PTk2MDtoPTU3Ng–/ -~B/aD02MDA7dz0xMDAwO2FwcGlkPXl0YWNoeW9u/″ data-src=”–/YXBwaWQ9aGlnaGxhbmRlcjt3PTk2MDtoPTU3Ng – / https: //–~B/aD02MDA7dz0xMDAwO2FwcGlkPXl0YWNoeW9u/https: //</div>
<p><figcaption class=Director of photography: Martin Godwin / The Guardian

When she first arrived in Britain as a refugee from Nigeria six years ago, Kemi had a three-month-old daughter, a room in a shared house and £ 5.39 to survive each day.

Because her daughter has a dairy intolerance, much of that meager allowance went to buy food and soy milk for her baby, meaning Kemi herself often went hungry. Finding money for clothes, even from a charity shop, was out of the question.

“Babies grow up every month, especially at that small age. It was difficult for me [because] I had to keep us safe and warm, ”Kemi says now.

The only thing to do was get up early and walk the streets with her daughter, hoping to pick up clothes that someone could throw in a charity basket or on a sidewalk. “He was so shameful sometimes when people walked by, to see me gather in the bin to find clothes to wear. [But] I didn’t care what people were [thought]I had to keep my daughter safe ”.

After four years, Kemi was granted refugee status and secured her first job interview – unsurprisingly she had nothing to wear. Instead of having to scribble or ask for something appropriate, however, she was directed to a small social business called Give Your Best, which asked her about her size and what kind of clothes she liked. “And they gave me three beautiful shirts. Those clothes were like gold to me … They asked me what I really wanted. This makes you feel appreciated. “

The initiative was launched during the Covid lockdown by Sol Escobar, a well-traveled Uruguayan now living in Cambridge who had spent several years volunteering in refugee camps in northern France and who felt “desperate” when Covid took affected, on how severely the refugee the community would suffer.

A friend put her in contact with a family of refugee women who, unable to shop online and with closed charity shops, could not access any clothing. Escobar realized that she had excess clothing that she could donate and asked for help from her friends and her networks.

She was inundated with offers, but she didn’t want to overload women with potentially inappropriate clothing. “So I thought, if I take pictures of all these objects and put them on an Instagram page, everyone can choose the things they really want. Maybe we can take away that little bit of that power imbalance, of the fact that the refugee is the person who receives things without having a choice ”.

Related: ‘Fashion doesn’t matter now’: Balenciaga pays tribute to Ukrainian refugees

Eighteen months later, Give Your Best has processed nearly 11,000 items of clothing donated by 1,500 people and has more than 800 refugee women allowed to “shop” for free on its storefront.

Aim for much more, however. Having reached the maximum limit of donations and requests it could manage through Instagram, even with the support of hundreds of volunteers, the company has just launched a new digital platform that will allow it to increase enormously, becoming what Escobar calls “a Depop for donations “.

As the hugely successful clothing reseller app, the clothes are photographed and uploaded to Give Your Best, where customers select the ones they like and the donors then post the article. Basically, however, no money changes hands.

In addition to giving its users choice and minimizing fashion waste, Escobar says one unforeseen consequence has been the small but intimate connections forged between donor and buyer. Many donors choose to include a supporting note and a small gift of health care products or chocolates – much appreciated by recipients, but also a reminder that “on the other side of your package, there is a woman your size and she has yours. sense of fashion, because she is shopping from your wardrobe ”.

The new platform means they can now offer children’s clothing, with men’s clothing on the way; eventually they aim to open donations to others in poverty clothing and potentially share their technology to replicate the model overseas. “There’s a lot of fashion waste and a lot of people needing clothes,” says Escobar.

After volunteering with the organization, Kemi is now her first staff member, directing women into a vulnerable position similar to a place where they too can choose the clothes they like and fit them, for free.

She kept an archive of the notes that were sent to her with the clothing. “They say [good] best wishes, hope you like your article, know that someone in the UK cares about you. Imagine how it feels. “

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