“It is of the utmost importance that new designers and students use their skills for the betterment of society. There are so many problems in the world and so many creative minds to generate solutions.”
Angela Luna had dreams of becoming an evening wear designer. Born in Boston, she moved to New York City to study at Parsons School of Design. But her career took a different path when she learned about the ongoing refugee crisis.
Besides donating to charity, what else could a NYC-based fashion student to do help refugees? The 22-year-old asked herself this question over and over again until everything changed in one night.
She told the IPF: “I was up late researching the refugee crisis; it was just after there had been another horrible boat crash in the Aegean Sea and I felt this overwhelming sense of empathy and desire to offer whatever I can to help these people.”
Collection to focus on the refugee crisis
At this point, Angela wondered if she should leave the fashion industry to follow a career in political science. Instead, she decided to venture out of her comfort zone to do something different – she changed the concept of her final-year dissertation collection to focus on the refugee crisis.
“I had no idea what the end result would look like, I just knew that I wanted to help and since my skill set was in design and fashion, I had no other choice.”
After making the decision, the next step was to understand the problems faced by refugees and how they could be addressed through design. Through researching articles, videos, images and interviews with humanitarian organisations, Angela identified various problems affecting refugees, including lack of shelter.
She said: “Although I wish I could address all the problems, I had to select ones that could potentially be resolved throughout the course of my dissertation.”
That’s how “Crossing Boundaries”- Angela’s dissertation collection inspired by the lives and stories of refugees – was born. The collection includes designs that can function as sleeping bags, tents, reflective jackets and flotation devices. Angela has also designed jackets that make it easier to transport children.The items of the collection, which has already earned Angela a Womenswear “Designer of the Year” award, are all waterproof and can be worn in different environments.
According to Angela, the most challenging item to conceive was the jacket that transforms into a tent. She said: “Getting them to stand up on grass was hard, and getting them to stand up on concrete or hard surfaces was even harder.”
“Usually with fashion, you need to be sure it just stays on the body, but in my case it also had to stand up by itself, battling gravity.”
Design for Difference
Currently, Angela is developing the project into a humanitarian brand that continues to help refugees, but also other vulnerable people across the world. The startup, Design for Difference, will be built on the morals of her first collection, creating only products that help.
“Unfortunately, the refugee crisis is not going away, and I am confident design can play a large role in easing the burden.”
Using her design skills for a good cause is what Angela wants to do in the long-term, and she encourages other fashion students to follow in her footsteps, saying they should’t be afraid to try something new, like she did with Design for Difference.
She said: “It is of the utmost importance that new designers and students use their skills for the betterment of society. There are so many problems in the world, and so many creative minds to generate solutions.”