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The Refugee Who Uses Fashion As A Medium To Raise Awareness Of Human Rights

Photographed by Driely Carter. Courtesy of Céline Semaan

Céline Semaan founded the Slow Factory back in 2012, with the goal of using fashion design to increase awareness of global human rights issues – most notably, the refugee crisis. This is something she has a strong personal connection with, since she and her family fled to Canada from Lebanon as refugees in the 1980s. This is not her first foray into fashion, though – in 2014, Semaan created a silk scarf collection called “Cities by Night,” featuring Nasa images of Paris, New York and London lit up at night. This year, she’ll add seven cities to the collection, all located in countries that were listed on US president Trump’s first immigration ban.

Semaan’s past echoes in her designs and she puts immense thought and passion into all of her work. She tells Vogue Arabia that the Slow Factory is “a hybrid label between fashion and activism, where we work on elevating fashion into a medium for social and environmental change. In the refugee camps we discovered that fashion and beauty are coping mechanisms to the girls there, and found that to be true everywhere else. Fashion is an utilitarian art in a sense that it give us ways to cope, dream, and be the best versions of ourselves.”

She’s also branching into jewelry with a message, with her first necklace being a simple brass chain and key pendant dipped in white gold. Named the “Dignity Key,” it is molded from the key of her family home in Lebanon, where having your key hanging around your neck is a tradition started by Palestinian refugees. The necklace represents home, and Semaan wanted to honor this tradition by creating a necklace symbolizing the homes refugees have left behind. The collection is modeled by refugees and their children, as Semaan wants to emphasize the importance of the crisis, while highlighting the successes and struggles of the women and men.

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