British designer and humanitarian Helen Storey believes that fashion is an excellent vehicle to connect people to difficult subject matters. Last week, she sent a dress crafted from a former refugee tent down the runway at the Jumeirah Carlton Tower hotel in Knightsbridge. It captured everyone’s attention, and put a spotlight on climate change and its human impact.
Titled “Dress for our Time”, Story’s frock is sewn from a decommissioned United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) tent which had previously housed a family in Jordan who had fled the conflict in Syria. The dress has previously been shown at the United Nations in Geneva, the Pyramid Stage at Glastonbury Festival, London’s Science Museum and American University Dubai.
“The dress has been showcased around the world in different situations. It is really about using fashion in service to something else,” said Storey. “People often feel impotent or overwhelmed by things like climate change or the migration crisis. This is an attempt to use a medium or a message that we are attracted to, which is fashion and what we look like.” Others agree. Consider Israeli artist Sigalit Landau who uses the natural chemistry of the Dead Sea to encrust clothing (link here). The resultant crystalized garments are an otherworldly reminder of our connection with the planet.
Storey, seen below left, noted that the dress is stained from when it was used as a tent in Jordan. Green Prophet has written extensively on refugees, and refugee tents, but converting tent canvas into haute couture is the most unusual story in our coverage – or perhaps on a par with the refugees who listed their tent on Airbnb.
Now in its third year, the glamorous London Arabia Art & Fashion Week launched on August 1 offering two weeks of cultural activities attended by top creative talent from the United Kingdom and the Arab world.
A key theme of the fashion show was the global migration crisis, and Gonzalo Vargas Llosa, UNHCR representative to the United Kingdom (UK), delivered an impassioned speech before the models took to the runway. He praised the Arab community’s response to the crisis, which has displaced an estimated 65 million people. “The numbers of men, women and children fleeing their homes as a result of conflict and persecution in the world has reached alarming numbers,” he said. “We have witnessed truly moving and extraordinary manifestations of solidarity and sympathy for refugees throughout the Arab world.”
Omar Bdour, event organizer and chief executive of London Arabia, spoke of the importance of culture in raising awareness. “The Arab world faces a unique conflict that other regions do not face. The resulting refugee crisis from the Syrian civil war and other conflicts still rages on. It is our ambition that culture, art, fashion and our communities can come together to help others to connect and engage.”
Bdour says the aim of London Arabia Art & Fashion Week is to keep a cultural dialogue going between the UK and the Middle East. “The relations between the UK and the Arab world matter more today than ever before. The potential for misunderstanding between our regions remains high, and the need for us to work together has never been greater.”
“What I like about this event,” said Storey, “is that you have some of the richest people in the world next to a cause like this, which represents some of the most impoverished people in the world.”
London Arabia Art & Fashion Week 2018 runs until August 16. Learn more about the dress at it’s website (link here).