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UNHCR Designer in Residence: The vision for 2020 in Zaatari refugee camp with Professor Helen Storey

Youseff filming girls in zaatari refugee camp
Youseff filming girls in zaatari refugee camp
Youseff in Zatari - UNHCR Designer in Residence with Professor Helen Storey
Written by
Jesse Tilley
Published date
20 February 2020

London College of Fashion, UAL and the UNHCR are pleased to announce that Professor Helen Storey (Centre for Sustainable Fashion) will continue in her role as UNHCR Designer in Residence into 2020. For the past 4 years Helen has worked side by side with refugees living in Zaatari, one of the world’s largest refugee camps, responding to their needs and wishes and co creating projects which nurture entrepreneurship, creativity and financial independence through the lens of fashion.

Over the past year extraordinary projects, including the “Made in Zaatari” Centre for female entrepreneurship and training, the first development of branded products of soap and jewellery and artistic collaborations, with artists such as Tarek Hamden have shown us how knowledge exchange through reciprocity can create better lives. In an age of radical collaboration, these projects are as much about what we can learn, as they are about what we can teach, which is why we will use 2020 to focus on bringing the experiences of resilient life back from Zaatari into the classrooms of London College of Fashion, UAL. Helen will work with staff and students to deliver new ways of teaching and learning, informing and inspiring what fashion and design can achieve between Zaatari and London.

Over the coming year we will be following the project in Zaatari through the eyes of those who live there. To mark the beginning of 2020 Helen worked with UNHCR and a young filmmaker called Yousef Alhariri who has lived in Zaatari since he was 13.

'Many people come to Zaatari to make films – but no one ever asks the people that live here, what film they would like to make – 2020 is about hearing the stories and voices of Zaatari first hand – what it is they want you to know about and what it means to be them.” - Helen Storey.

Roni Brown; Head of London College of Fashion, UAL said: “Professor Helen Storey’s intuitive work, in collaboration with the people of Zaatari, has created unparalleled opportunities for knowledge exchange which challenge traditional notions of what fashion and design can achieve. 2020 marks an important stage in the development of our work with the UNHCR; not only will we continue to focus on creating projects that use fashion to shape lives on the ground, but also to inspire our staff and students, and use those experiences to shape the future of the curriculum.”

The project ‘Dress for our Time’ conceived by Helen in 2015, started as a work of activism. The dress itself was made from a decommissioned refugee tent gifted to the project by the UNHCR. In giving the tent a meaningful reincarnation as a public installation, Dress For Our Time humanised the data to tell a bigger story. The dress went on to be displayed at 6 different global venues including, the Science Museum, Glastonbury Festival and the UN HQ in Geneva.

As the project evolved Helen became increasing interested in Zaatari – the refugee camp where the tent had once housed a fleeing Syrian family. The trip was life changing for Helen and since then Dress for our Time has evolved into working with the people of Zaatari, predominately women and children, to give hope and empower the next generation.