Parsons Student’s Ingenious Line Shows How Fashion Can Help Refugees

The mass human migration occurring right now is unprecedented in scale. While people have always moved to new places seeking a better life, this is different. Since the start of the Syrian civil war, millions have been displaced from their homes. They are fleeing violence and looking for a better situation for their families, from Central America and Senegal and beyond.Often desperate civilians have been compelled to move with little more than the clothes on their backs. So there’s plenty of conversation about how to help them.

Instead of talking about it, Parsons fashion design student Angela Luna decided to take action.

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She wanted to make clothing that works on behalf of refugees. In her senior year at Parsons School of Design in New York, the Beverly resident has developed an ingenious collection of jackets that can double as practical items for shelter and safety, including tents, sleeping bags, and baby harnesses.

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Everything in the line has another use — like this jacket, which turns into a tent

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The inspiration comes from one day when Angela Luna and her father sat watching television in their Massachusetts home as “another 200 people died in Syria today” blasted from the 11 o’clock news.

Luna turned to her father and asked “Should I be doing fashion? We’re sitting around everyday talking about $4,000 Prada pants that don’t even matter in the larger scheme of things.”

According to Luna’s interview: “There are two jackets in the collection that convert into tents. One of them is a smaller size tent that can fit about two people comfortably and then the other jacket fits about a family of five to six people, so that one is very large. They kind of look like long, poncho, raincoat, cape kind of things.”

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“There’s also a jacket that converts into a sleeping bag, a jacket that converts into a backpack, another jacket that is entirely reflective on one side, on the inside it’s reversible. It’s designed for hiding because I know refugees do have issues with needing to be seen and needing to hide at other times. Another one was an inflatable flotational jacket, so there is a panel you can blow up with air and in theory it would keep you afloat in the water and you can deflate it when you get to land and actually wear it for the rest of your journey. There’s also a child-carrying jacket as well that has a removable baby harness,” says Luna in the interview.

Prior to her thesis, Luna was an evening wear designer focusing on hand stitching, beading, and couture techniques. She had a job lined up and a contract signed at Abercrombie & Fitch to start straight after graduation. All this changed when she began looking further into the Syrian refugee crisis and applying design intervention to come up with possible solutions to the crisis.

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Her line has already won accolades for her designs, including the Parsons’ Designer of the Year Womenswear Award.

Recently, she received an e-mail from a Syrian refugee who found an article about her work in the New School’s student newspaper. The woman e-mailed Luna to thank her for her work. It was signed “from all of us.”

“I was in tears when I read that,” she says.

Check out the video below to learn more about Luna’s revolutionary work with Design for a Difference.

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