SARAJEVO, Bosnia-Herzegovina (AP) — For an evening, some migrants in Bosnia were able to escape the hardship of their everyday lives for the glamour of fashion world.
A fashion show featuring migrant models was held on Thursday evening in Bosnia’s capital, Sarajevo, presenting a brand created by migrants from reception centers in the Balkan country and a Bosnian designer.
The event held at the Sarajevo City Hall was also meant to mark International Migration Day this weekend, and promote integration of people who were forced to flee their homes to escape war, violence or poverty.
“It is really important to recognize that migrants have contributed so much to the world, and there are so many different paths of migration,” said Ingrid Macdonald, the U.N. resident coordinator in Bosnia.
Macdonald hailed “those incredible people who have come here and are contributing to Bosnia-Herzegovina."
Dubbed “No Nation Fashion,” the migrant-made fashion brand project started last June, through a sewing project for migrants at some of the reception centers, who were initially making reusable face masks in the pandemic.
Backed by international organizations in Bosnia and with the help of Bosnian designer Aleksandra Lovric, migrants started creating clothes and accessories “made by people on the move,” and meant for both themselves and the local community.
A mixture of cultures, an exchange of ideas and creativity of people from various parts of the world, the fashion brand has shown the power of inclusion and diversity, said Laura Lungarotti, of the International Organization for Migration in Bosnia.
Bosnia is home to about 4,000 people who remain stuck in the Balkan country while looking for ways to move toward Western Europe. The impoverished nation lies on the so-called Balkan route for migrants traveling from Turkey and Greece and through the region toward the European Union.
Migrants in Bosnia mostly try to cross to neighboring EU country Croatia, before heading on further west. Many migrants routinely face closed borders and have complained of pushbacks and violence at the hands of Croatian police.
Still scarred by its own trauma from a 1990s war, many Bosnians have shown sympathy for the migrants, even as the country struggled with the influx of thousands of people that needed to be accommodated.
Lovric said she wanted to do everything she could to help improve the lives for people in the camps.
“I wanted them to feel like normal human beings,” the designer said. “They are all on a tough road, carrying heavy emotions, and something good is always born out of such emotions.”
At the fashion show on Thursday, migrant models came out on the catwalk in designs meant to symbolize various stages of their journeys — the "nomadic" road away from home and the transit to new lives in new countries. The panel in the background read “We are strong,” and “We smile.”
Organizers said they plan to expand the project to more reception centers and establish cooperation with technical schools and universities in Bosnia.
“Working side by side, migrants and Bosnian designers have come together and created this fantastic piece of art and it shows really how much diversity, intercultural exchanges can be beneficial for the migrants and for the host society,” Lungarotti said.
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Eldar Emric, The Associated Press