‘Those Clothes Were Like Gold’: Fashion Donors Pay Tribute to Immigrant Choice | Social organizations

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When she first came to Britain as a migrant from Nigeria six years ago, Kemi had a three-month-old daughter, a room in a shared house and £5.39 a day.

Since her daughter has a dairy intolerance, most of her small allowance went to buying baby food and soy milk, which meant that Kemi herself was often hungry. Even getting money for clothes from a charity shop was out of the question.

“Kids grow every month, especially at a young age. It was hard for me. [because] I had to keep myself safe and warm,” Kemi says now.

All she had to do was get up early and walk down the street with her daughter, thinking of taking advantage of clothes that someone had left on the pavement or in a charity bin. “Sometimes when people pass by, I feel so embarrassed when they see me rummaging through the trash for clothes to wear. [But] I didn’t care what people did. [thought]I had to protect my daughter.

Hanger for clothes
‘To remind you that beyond your package, there is a woman of your size and fashion sense.’ Photo: Graham Turner/The Guardian

Four years later, Kemi was granted refugee status and got her first interview – surprisingly, she had nothing to wear. But instead of scrambling or begging for something appropriate, she was referred to a small social enterprise called Give the Best, who asked her her size and what kind of clothes she liked. “And they gave me three beautiful shirts. Those clothes were like gold to me… They asked me what I wanted. This will make you feel valued.

The initiative was started during the Covid lockdown by Sol Escobar, a well-traveled Uruguayan now living in Cambridge who spent years volunteering in refugee camps in northern France and was “desperate” when he described how difficult it was for the migrant when Covid hit. Society will suffer.

A friend put her in touch with a family of migrant women who couldn’t shop online and whose charity shops were closed and couldn’t find any clothes. Escobar realized she had a surplus of clothes she could donate and asked her friends and network for help.

She was inundated with offers, but didn’t want to overload women with inappropriate clothing. “So I thought if I took pictures of all these items and put them on the Instagram page, everyone could choose the things they really want. Maybe we can take that little power imbalance, that the immigrant is someone who accepts things without any choice.

Eighteen months later, Give Your Best has produced nearly 11,000 items of clothing donated by 1,500 people and allowed more than 800 refugee women to “shop” for free in a virtual storefront.

However, he is looking for more. Escobar has launched a new digital platform he calls “Donation Depot” after reaching the limit of donations and requests the enterprise can handle through Instagram, even with the support of hundreds of volunteers. He said.

Like the successful clothing resale app, clothes are photographed and uploaded to give away, where customers like them and donors then post the item. But mainly, no money changes hands.

As well as giving consumers choice and reducing fashion waste, Escobar says one unexpected result is the small but intimate connection between donor and buyer. Many donors choose to include a note of support and a small gift of hygiene products or chocolates — well-received by recipients, but also a note that says, “There’s a woman your size and fashion sense on the other side of your package, because she’s shopping in your closet.”

Putting clothes in a cardboard box to donate
There’s a lot of fashion junk and people who need a lot of clothes. Photo: Wachiwit/Getty Images/iStockPhoto

The new platform means they can now offer children’s clothing, along with upcoming menswear; Ultimately, they aim to open up donations to others in poverty and may share their technology to replicate the model overseas. “There’s a lot of fashion junk and a lot of people who need clothes,” Escobar said.

Kemi, who has been volunteering with the organization, is now the first member of staff; She empowers women in the same vulnerable position to freely choose what they like and what suits them.

She kept the notebook that was sent to her with the clothes. ” they say [good] Wishes, I hope you enjoy your stuff, know that someone in the UK is thinking of you. Think about how you feel.”

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