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Grand designs: The refugees in Paris with an eye on fashion

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.

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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.

Bagher Husseini Afghan asylum seeker Payman Haideri and fashion school graduate Kyle Emunson were seen at a workshop in Antony, near Paris, France. (Source Reuters)
“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.

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.

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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.”

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.

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

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