Sitting in class discussing the latest fashion shows by day and scrolling through the news coverage of the refugees pouring out of Syria at night, Angela Luna felt a big disconnect between what she was studying and what was happening in the outside world.
A student at Parsons School of Design, Luna considered switching majors to study something more humanities-based where she could develop the skills to make a difference, but she was already three years into her degree.
“My skill set has always been with creativity and design,” Luna told Business Insider. “In the end, yeah, I am going to school for fashion and I [thought] it could be more interesting and could actually be a more innovative way to create a solution if I use my skills in design.”
After speaking with humanitarian workers, Luna quickly discovered another benefit to staying in the fashion industry: that’s where the money is.
By looking through images of refugees sleeping on sidewalks, reading interviews, and speaking with humanitarian agencies, Luna identified the most prominent challenges faced by refugees that she could address through design, such as the need for warmth and protection from the elements. Luna then applied her research to develop a collection of seven pieces for her senior thesis design project at Parsons, simultaneously establishing her apparel company ADIFF, with the tagline “design intervention for global issues.”
Globally, fashion is a $1.2 trillion industry. Luna found a way to tap into that cash flow by designing these multipurpose garments that people would be interested in wearing recreationally, and then turning around those profits to donate modified versions of the garments to refugees for survival gear. Luna hopes to establish a business model similar to Tom’s Shoes, which donates a pair of shoes for every pair purchased. Luna says she is currently in talks with potential investors and manufacturing partners. She hopes to launch the collection commercially by early next summer.
You can see her entire collection below.
Luna emphasized that the collection isn’t inspired by refugees, but it’s intended to help them by looking at their needs and trying to address those through design.
The collection is called “Outerwear Anywhere.”
Instead of attempting to design jackets that transform into survival tools, like the ones she found online, Luna focused on working backwards. For example, building a tent that works as a jacket rather than a jacket that works as a tent.
Or a sleeping bag that doubles as a jacket for maximum warmth.
Luna said that designing the collection was a long process, taking as long as months to figure out some of the garments.
This jacket has a built in pouch for carrying a child.
She said she tried to think of new ways to make things look good on the body as well.
This jacket converts into a backpack.
“Since I’ve put the website online, I’ve been reached out by a bunch of people who enjoy hiking or camping or doing long-distance treks through the mountains,” Luna said. “There is an interest and there is a need there.”
Luna said that she understands that the consumers wearing these clothes recreationally have different needs than those wearing her designs for survival gear.
“This whole collection was also about finding a way to prove that fashion could be more than just clothes,” Luna said. “I feel like, in every industry, there’s opportunities [to make a difference], it’s [just] up to you to figure out how you can kind of make that opportunity yourself.”