Crossing Boundaries with ADIFF: Fashion not for the sake of Fashion
ADIFF A collection created to help Syrian Refugees
Millennial designer and recent Parsons School of Design Graduate, Angela Luna, created a multifunctional collection under the brand ADIFF to help out Syrian refugees. Recently winning Designer of the Year Womenswear Award and showcased on top global media, Angela shares with us her in depth perception on Fashion, how she plans on helping distributing the clothes to refugees, the complex designs behind the collection and her plans for the future.
Mission Statement: “Design intervention for global issues. Creating clothes that help, and getting them to those in need.”
“It is a statement of current events: not making a trend out of tragedy, but channeling major global issues into fashion. It is as much as a political statement as a fashion statement. Fashion is often considered superfluous and detached from global concerns, and now is the time to create change.”
- Creating Adiff
This collection for me really came from a sense of helplessness. For the past few years, I have always tried to be involved in current events. One night 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. But I live in New York. I study fashion. Besides donating to a refugee charity, it didn’t seem like I could do much. The next day at class, as my professors and classmates were discussing the latest runway shows, I found myself reflecting on how distant this issue was from our daily lives – how could we be sitting in this classroom, acting as if people are not dying on the other side of the world? I questioned whether or not I should be in the industry, whether or not I should even be in fashion? So later that week I informed my professors that I was going to change the concept for my thesis to focus on the Refugee Crisis. At that point, 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.
“It’s a collection of outerwear jackets that serve multiple transformable purposes. Each jacket responds to an issue that a refugee faces on a daily basis. I did this through a vast amount of research. I was online a lot of the time, reading articles, collecting images, talking to humanitarian agencies, trying to figure out which issues could be addressed through design. There are two jackets in the collection that convert into tents, one of them is a smaller size tent that can fit about two people comfortably and then the other jacket fits about a family of five to six people, so that one is very large.
There’s also a jacket that converts into a sleeping bag, a jacket that converts into a backpack, and another jacket that is entirely reflective on one side, on the inside it’s reversible. It’s designed for hiding because I know refugees do have issues with needing to be seen and needing to hide at other times.
Another one was an inflatable floatable jacket, so there is a panel you can blow up with air and it can keep you afloat in the water, you can deflate it when you get to land and wear it for the rest of your journey.
There’s also a child-carrying jacket as well that has a removable baby harness.”
After I decided to focus on the refugee crisis, the next step was figuring out which problems could be addressed through design. Although I wish I could address all the problems I noticed, I had to select ones that could potentially be resolved throughout the course of my thesis – actually several jackets didn’t even get designed until the second portion of the year, when I could approach the problem from a different standpoint. This was done through massive amounts of research from articles, image collection, videos, and interviews with humanitarian agencies. After identifying the problems came the incredibly difficult task of engineering of the garments, which in a several cases involved making freestanding structures. Usually with fashion, you need to be sure it stays on the body, but in my case it also had to stand up by itself, battling gravity.
The design development took the longest of all, there was not a single jacket of the collection that was easy, especially because I personally constructed them all, but that was what I liked best about it. We had the whole school year to develop this thesis, so I was working on it from September through the end of April. I thought that in order to still be interested and involved the entire time, I had to choose a concept that was incredibly difficult and would take me all year to figure out. Coming from a couture background, I will say that a lot of the attention to detail and precision from making eveningwear is echoed with the high-tech functionality and techniques of making outerwear. My professors always told me that the hardest thing to make is a jacket, and the second hardest is a fitted corset.
- These products can also be sold to global sports wear brands such as The North face, Decathlon, Patagonia etc. do you plan in collaborating with them in the future?
I am extremely open for conversation or collaboration with these brands, although have not been approached by them as of yet. My main goal is to be sure that anyone I collaborate with has similar intentions and dedication to philanthropy. I see this project as more than just a one-season capsule collection – from the interest I have received, I whole-heartedly believe that it could be a brand that lasts years. So yes, I am open to sharing my ideas with these larger brands, as long as the project remains humanitarian driven.
3.1 Can you explain the business model of ADIFF, how does it balance humanitarian needs with profit and sustainability?
The collection will be sold towards an outerwear market: I’m calling the jackets “outerwear anywhere,” so you can wear it for long distance hiking, camping, or even just on the streets in New York where people will be buying into a brand that promotes awareness and large scale donations similar to Tom’s One for One concept. The ideal price point is from $50-$300 creating an inclusive brand and not an exclusive one.
Moreover, the collection is stylish enough to be worn on the streets of Manhattan and practical enough to be worn on a hike in the woods, but specifically created with the intention of being worn by refugees.
With every purchase, a portion of the proceeds will go towards the production and distribution of edited versions of the most relevant garments, which will be donated to refugees on location. By editing the donated items, production costs can be dramatically reduced so that more product could be donated. After speaking with a refugee camp field worker in Lebanon, she told me that “while the clothing is beautiful, refugees do not care about what color their jacket is, they just care that it will stay together and keep them warm.” The donated items will respond to this statement. So by purchasing anything from the brand, you are helping someone in need.
All clothing will be ethically produced with sustainable materials. I fully believe that a humanitarian company is only as good as its global supply chain.
- What are the next and future steps for ADIFF and how do you personally see ADIFF’s growth for the future?
The immediate goal is to get it up and running, starting with production and sales, and donating! I’m not generally the kind of person who is satisfied with her work, but the day I get the first round of donations to refugees, I will feel that joy. I want to keep this project going as long as it can, produce even more innovative garments, and help as many people possible. All my future actions will be in service of this goal. I see this as a large, mass production brand that has a major online and in store presence. I hope Adiff can one day be a leader contributor to global donations and awareness.