The recent past has seen quite a few fashion labels, both local and international, lending support to socially relevant causes, in the hope to bring around some positive change. In Pakistan, themes speaking up against child abuse and gender injustices while promoting girls’ education have been brought to the runway in the last couple of years. It is a trend we saw at the PFDC Sunsilk Fashion Week as well as Fashion Pakistan Week that took place earlier this year.
While runway presentations have managed to capture headlines, it is equally necessary to work towards achieving a social change that begins from a basic level and has lasting results; work has to be done behind the scenes too. One of the recent efforts in this direction has been put forth by design label FnkAsia which provided work opportunities to multi-national refugees in Karachi, in collaboration with United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). A group of men and women from various regions, including Sudan, Yemen, Afghanistan, Burma and Uzbekistan, was employed at the FnkAsia factories in Korangi, providing them with some economic stability while bringing their craft to the forefront.
“I was approached by the UNHCR to provide training to these refugees living in Karachi,” Huma Adnan, Creative Director of the brand, told Instep in an exclusive interview. “They played a key role in bringing the group together and making them available for us.”
“We as fashion influencers have the potential to start a new economic cycle,” Huma added, speaking about the purpose behind this collaboration. “My brand utilizes indigenous crafts from different parts of the world. Hence, I became excited and took the challenge to polish their craft and train their business acumen.”
The designer also informed that they worked non-stop for eight weeks with this group and came up with fabulous results. “The craft from different regions was fused to make a master piece,” she continued. “They have been very cooperative and patient. So I loved the execution.”
When asked if the brand managed to achieve the purpose and if she thinks this initiative will help them become self-sufficient, she responded, “The key element for any project to be successful is to ensure its long term sustainability, which can only be achieved with mutual economic benefits for all those involved. I think any step taken towards the betterment of refugees to make them self reliant and self sufficient is a huge contribution. If I can do that through fashion, I feel I would have accomplished my social responsibility.”
While we have seen a lot of social initiatives introduced in the past, there isn’t always a follow-up in the all the cases and the story ends then and there.
Considering this, we asked Huma about the long term goals as well as how is it going benefit these refugees in the longer run.
“We will soon be marketing their first collection and will be placing their first order,” she responded. “If they start producing which they are about to, I will be their first buyer. We will be excessively selling online and through our distribution network. Each piece will have a story about them which talks about their past.”
The upcoming collection, that will soon be available online, focuses on textile craft from around the world. These displaced refugees seeking asylum in Pakistan created some elegant jewelry and textile craft under the supervision of designers at FnkAsia in the last few weeks.
Sharing her experience, one of the refugee women, Anisa from Yemen maintained, “UN people approached me and informed that there is some training for handwork and all this jewelry-related work. All my life I have done administrative jobs including that of logistics, procurement and office jobs. So, it was the first time I was exposed to a completely new area without any prior experience. We learnt something new about it every day. We were so excited because it was a new adventure for us. Huma ma’am used to sit with us on the floor; she was very helpful and encouraging.”
Another woman, Shareefa from Afghanistan shared, “We were treated so well that I felt it was my own thing as opposed to doing it for someone else. I’m very thankful that ma’am [Huma Adnan] gave us the time and resources and let us work with them.”
It is always encouraging to see someone taking such positive steps towards making this world a better place to live, especially for the unprivileged. We appreciate the brand’s effort in helping out these refugees and trying to empower them with their craft. We hope it goes a long way, creating more opportunities for them and others like them.