Sarajevo, 27 Dec 2021 – As the lights illuminated the stage to mark the start of the fashion show in Sarajevo, dozens of dreams took flight, warming the winter chill. One of them Zahra's, a 25-year-old migrant from Iran.

“Story About Us” was a fashion show, but much more than just a fashion show. It marked the launch of a concept, a fashion label, and the proof that people on the move don’t need to hide in the shadows.

The gala 17 December show at Sarajevo City Hall, on the eve of International Migrants Day, showed migrants in a blaze of light and colour, and was the culmination of months of hard work and dedication.

Amina, a young Iranian model woman in the Fashion Corner in TRC Usivak, Bosnia and Herzegovina.  Photo: Vanja Lisac

“I am incredibly happy and grateful for this opportunity to take part in developing a new brand. By the end of the year, we will have an exhibition of our works and a fashion show. I don’t know, for me this is still like a dream.”

So said Zahra.

“So far, I used to find ideas for my creations on the Internet, wishing that, one day, I would become a designer. It seems to me that this wish will be realized here, in Bosnia and Herzegovina.”

Migrant models and migrant designers took to the catwalk to present works created in Migrant Centres across Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH).

Melina, a young model in the Fashion Corner in TRC Usivak, Bosnia and Herzegovina.  Photo: Vanja Lisac

“Everyone gave their contribution to present our collection in the best possible way. An entire world made up of emotions such as joy, sadness, happiness, tears, uncertainty. All of this is woven into the pores of the fabrics from which these garments are made,” said Aleksandra Lovrić, fashion designer and coordinator of the EU-backed International Organization for Migration (IOM) programme that made dreams real.

The story started in the migrant reception facilities as a well-being initiative for migrants. IOM established sewing corners for people to meaningfully spend their time during the pandemic, getting the chance to improve their sewing skills and to create reusable masks from recycled materials.

“Soon after the establishment, it was clear that we had something unique with much greater potential: creative migrants with a flair for fashion design and interest in showcasing their talents and learning about other cultures,” says Laura Lungarotti, IOM Chief of Mission in BiH and Sub-regional Coordinator for the Western Balkans.

“The sewing corners rapidly grew into something we could have hardly imagined: fashion studios.”

Melina, a young model in the Fashion Corner in TRC Usivak, Bosnia and Herzegovina.  Photo: Vanja Lisac

Several local artists and renowned fashion designers enthusiastically joined the project, sharing their skills and experience with the migrants. “This project raised an extraordinary enthusiasm among the artistic community. The fashion corners have now turned into a space for cultural exchange, mutual learning, where migrants can express their creativity and collaborate with local artists, jointly leaving their mark in the community,” added Lungarotti.

The next step was to develop a brand: NO NATION FASHION. The brand aims to send the message that human mobility can offer development opportunities to both countries of origin, destination and transit, such as BiH. It celebrates diversity, a meeting of cultures, and abilities that know no borders. It combines the talent, creativity and skills of migrants and the expertise and cultural expressions of Bosnia and Herzegovina’s fashion designers.

Along with her wish to become a designer, Zahra and her family want to continue their lives in BiH. This fashion story is just one step on her path towards making this country a new home for her and her family.

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