Business

In Paris, refugees are becoming fashion designers, thanks to this project

Fashion design student Hugo Castejon-Blanchard from the Institut Francais de la Mode, is seen at a workshop in Antony, near Paris, France.

Fashion design student Hugo Castejon-Blanchard at a workshop in Antony, Paris. Image: REUTERS/Michaela Cabrera

Michaela Cabrera
Journalist, Reuters
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  • Bagher Husseini is an Afghan refugee who travelled to Iran after fleeing fighting in Afghanistan's Ghazni province.
  • A tailor, he is now involved in a collaboration between French fashion students and migrants from Afghanistan and the Middle East.
  • The Reprise Project offers training for migrants to transform second-hand clothes into fashionable menswear, from a workshop in a southern Paris suburb.
  • The fashion students and social workers are currently hoping to obtain professional sewing machines to help them release their first collection.

From old denim fabrics, Afghan refugee Bagher Husseini fashioned a pair of baggy jeans with fringed patches that he hopes will be paraded down a French catwalk later this year.

Husseini has worked with a sewing machine before. He made his way to Iran after fleeing fighting in Afghanistan's Ghazni province, surviving on a modest tailor's income.

Now he's involved in a collaboration between French fashion students and migrants from Afghanistan and the Middle East. The Reprise project aims to train to give migrants the skills to turn second-hand clothes into edgy menswear.

"I enjoy selecting different colors, different types of fabric ... and then making something special out of them," Husseini said in his native Dari language.

New to his repertoire are jeans, jackets and hats, sometimes inspired by traditional Afghan clothing.

image of Afghan asylum seeker Payman Haideri and fashion school graduate Kyle Emunson are seen at a workshop in Antony, near Paris, France.
Afghan asylum seeker Payman Haideri and fashion school graduate Kyle Emunson are seen at a workshop in Antony, near Paris, France. Image: REUTERS/Michaela Cabrera

Reprise evolved from a rudimentary sewing workshop.

The workshop is based inside a holding centre that houses 200 asylum-seekers in a southern Paris suburb.

Once or twice a week, a group of asylum seekers join the workshop, honing new skills in embroidery, crocheting, and modeling.

"I like to come to model. Model and (play) cricket," said asylum seeker Imran Hazarbuz, who used to play cricket in his native Afghanistan. "I don't know which work is better for me, we will see."

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The fashion students and social workers want to get hold of professional sewing machines and fabric from fashion brands. If they are able to speed up the pace at which apparel items can be made, a first collection could be marketed later this year.

Have you read?

"The story is there, and the clothes breathe this story," said fashion student Hugo Castejon-Blanchard.

Reporting by Michaela Cabrera; Editing by Richard Lough and Mike Collett-White.

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