This fashion label turns refugee lifejackets into statement clothing

For vogue label founder and former refugee Mohamed Malim, the discarded jackets are symbols of perseverance

Mohamed Malim, a former Somali refugee who went to the US when he was three, desires his vogue label to begin conversations. 

His Minnesota-based startup Epimonia takes lifejackets from the Greek island of Lesbos that have been worn by refugees once they crossed the Mediterranean and transforms them into bracelets, beanie hats, jackets and different objects of clothes. The label’s seamsters are refugees too. 

“Individuals see you sporting orange, ask about it, after which you may discuss in regards to the firm and about refugees,” says Malim (important image).

A snapshot on the finish of 2020 revealed 82.4 million folks worldwide who had been forcibly displaced on account of persecution, battle, violence or human rights violations, in response to the United Nations Refugee Company. Extra lately, greater than 3 million individuals are estimated to have fled Ukraine since February. 

Epimonia (the phrase means ‘perseverance’ in Greek) is all about telling a extra reasonable, balanced story about refugees, in addition to supporting them virtually. 

“I selected that phrase as a result of refugees undergo many challenges, and persevere all through the entire journey,” Malim says. He notes that for a lot of refugees, the life vests are the very last thing they put on. 

Refugee Week

Lifejackets have develop into emblematic of the perilous journey many refugees take. Picture: Jametlen Reskp

It was whereas finding out advertising at college in 2018 that Malim launched Epimonia. He was pissed off on the anti-refugee rhetoric he was listening to from politicians like former president Donald Trump, in addition to from elements of the media and the general public. “My purpose was to fight that, by sharing refugee success tales,” he notes merely. 

Malim started by asking refugees to share a bit about themselves and printed profiles about them, together with portraits, on-line. Realising that he may make an impression by means of vogue, he collaborated together with his uncle, Dutch-Somali designer Omar Munie, to create his first designs. With its preliminary signature accent, the Embracelet, Epimonia was born. 

“It’s a really small crew,” says Malim. “I’ve about 4 staff and 6 refugee seamstresses working proper now.” 

My purpose was to fight [anti-refugee rhetoric], by sharing refugee success tales

The label has already achieved lots regardless of its measurement. Over $45,000 (£33,000) has been donated in the direction of prices like school scholarships and citizen utility charges for refugees. Epimonia has partnered with refugee organisations, sports activities groups and artists, amongst others, and has to this point recycled greater than 500 lifejackets, donated by Refugee 4 Refugees, a Greek NGO. 

“We offer symbolic assist, too,” Malim explains.“As a result of whenever you put on an Epimonia garment, you’re sporting one thing very highly effective. It’s solidarity – you’re standing with refugees world wide.” 

Mukhtar Dahir left Somalia for Canada when he was only one, and has since moved to the US. Dahir met Malim in 2019 and was impressed by what he was doing. “I used to be sort of shocked,” Dahir says. “I had by no means met somebody who was getting lifejackets and turning them into attire. I discovered it very intriguing and fascinating.” 


Bracelets are among the many objects that the lifejackets are was. Picture: Epimonia

Each have skilled prejudice for being former refugees. In Toronto, Dahir – now Epimonia’s operations and logistics supervisor – was conscious of stereotypes: that refugees rely
on authorities handouts; that they’re lazy and a burden on the system. “Once you’re in a minority, you discover issues folks say, like: ‘Oh, you discuss eloquently for an individual who’s moved right here’,” he says. “These issues can get to you, they are often the straw that breaks the camel’s again.” 

Epimonia tells a distinct story – they usually’re simply getting began. The pair have massive plans for the 12 months forward, together with a undertaking to assist Afghan refugees, which includes Minnesota state authorities. Collaborations with refugee designers and fashions are additionally within the pipeline. 

We need to encourage folks to be extra empathetic, and assist as many refugees as we are able to

Malim additionally desires to begin creating attire from tents which were left in Greece. “It’s one other fascinating method to increase consciousness – utilizing the tent strap to make bracelets and beanies,” he says. 

“We need to continue to grow and make our impression massive,” Malim provides. “We need to encourage folks to be extra empathetic, and assist as many refugees as we are able to.”


The information:

  • £

    donated to refugees to this point

  • 500

    lifejackets which were was clothes and bracelets

  • 12

    refugees employed by the enterprise to this point

Important picture: Mohamed Malim. Credit score: Paul Akama

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