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Design Tackles the Refugee Crisis

Joshua Tarn


In our 2016 trend report and in a recent article about socially conscious design, we looked at the general movement around the world towards using creativity for good. That is, the great imaginative minds out there are, more and more, starting to put their efforts towards conceptualising products that’ll change lives, not just pretty up homes and wardrobes.

A recent project by a group of interior design and textile students from London’s Royal College of Art is a heart-warming example of this trend. The young team touched base with humanitarian aid organization Doctors Without Borders to get an idea of the sorts of conditions that refugees face on a daily basis and they then designed a product to address their key challenges: a multi-purpose jacket that can be reconfigured into a sleeping bag and tent.

The innovation is a direct response to the current Syrian refugee crisis, and as project leader Harriet Harriss was quoted as saying in a Dezeen article, ‘whilst [the] wearable won’t solve the whole problem, it addresses a small part of it’.

WearableShelters

The baggy coat is made from an affordable, sustainable, durable material and lined with insulation. It features a large hood and multiple waterproof pockets in which to store personal belongings, and when not being worn it can be unzipped and converted into a sleeping bag or a tent as a safe resting place for the displaced.

It’s a clean, simple example of how design can be used to restore dignity and to address the issue of lack of shelter in an out-of-the-box way. Similarly, it’s proof that the most effective designs emerge from a careful on-the-ground examination of the challenges they aim to address.

The real challenge now though is getting the wearables to the people who need them most. The students have started up a Kickstarter campaign to raise the funds necessary to mass produce and distribute the jackets, with the aim of having the design fully developed and ready to deploy by July 2016.

Watch the video below to get a better idea of how these wearable shelters work: