Capacity building / hosting and convening
Foster diversity and redundancy
Antwerp is the beating heart of the Belgian fashion industy. Yet refugees arriving from Afghanistan, Iran and Syria with experience in the industry found it impossible to get work. Their lack of formal qualifications wasn’t the only thing standing in their way. Poverty and personal presentation and confidence were also playing a part in preventing them accessing the jobs they had the skills and talent to do. The city’s social welfare organisation, OCMW Antwerp, saw an opportunity to open doors to the labour market for refugees while also renewing its fashion industry by bringing production back from abroad and promoting circular principles.
The innovative Inside Out scheme combines social care with work experience and education to give newcomers with textile and clothing experience the support they need to gain self-esteem, secure jobs and contribute to a more sustainable fashion industry. The project helps vulnerable adolescents and children, single mothers and the poor by combining three areas of activity: a clothing store, a tailoring and alterations studio and social care. The social clothing store and studio are where the project’s vision comes alive. The shop provides much more than new clothes and styling advice – offered for free to job-seekers and at low cost to families referred by their social worker. It’s where refugees can work as sales assistants to develop communication and sales skills that will help them realise their career ambitions. And it’s how unwanted or damaged stock donated by the project’s clothing industry partners is saved from landfill and incineration.
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