Drawings of children from the ‘Tirana Deaf Pupils Institute’ are turned into a wonderful fashion collection.
“They ‘speak’ with their hands! They cannot communicate in the traditional way but they can still feel and create just the way all humans do.”
So says Gentian Minga, the Editor-in-Chief of ‘Living Albania’ magazine. It was Gentian that came up with the idea to use fashion as a powerful medium to release important messages with a social impact. Inspired by the earlier collection of Mirela Nurce, with the “Israel On” campaign, he decided to collect the drawings of children with special needs and turn them into a beautiful collection. With the help of UNDP Albania staff, Nora Kushti and Entela Lako, who provided their support for this project, it now includes deaf children too. This idea was embraced immediately because, for these children, drawings are not just a way to create, but also a way to communicate and spread messages.
The project was a ‘Living Magazine’ project masterminded by Gentian Minga as Project Manager and creator supported by Nurce Couture, UNDP Albania, UN Albania and the Swiss Embassy in Tirana. All this was initiated in order to attract attention to these marginalised persons who, given the right opportunities, can play an important part in society. Mirela gave the project a beautiful name “With Innocence On” and with Gentian came up with a meaningful slogan for the project: “PERSONS WITH DISABILITIES BUT WITH UNLIMITED TALENTS”. The primary objective is all about raising awareness but part of the project is also a documentary.
The organisers chose Albanian celebrities to support the campaign and raise awareness for these special children. Emina Cunmulaj was chosen to be the ambassador and icon for this collection and project and campaign. Emina is well known in USA and in the past she has graced the covers of ELLE, MARIE CLAIRE and VOGUE magazines. She is very famous in USA for her career as supermodel and she was kind enough to use her fame to make these children famous as well. All the celebrities involved were chosen for a reason. Rezarta Skifteri and Aferdita Paqarada are fashion designers and wanted to show that there is no competition when it comes to contributing to an important cause. So they kindly agreed to wear other designers’ creations. Another supporter is Hueyda El Saied, a dark skinned Albanian television celebrity who well knows what prejudice is all about as demonstrated in her book, “THE COLOUR OF MY SKIN.” She became involved in order to support a cause close to her heart. Emanuela Zaimi is the founder and chief of “Downs Syndrome Albania” and she agreed to wear clothes designed from deaf children’s drawings to send the message that, when it comes to children, and especially those in need, there are no exclusive cases. So she supports all children with the same strength with which she supports Downs Syndrome children. The organisers chose all these personalities for their willingness to give their time to such an important purpose.
Gentian Minga, project manager says: “What we wanted to say with this project was that all these children have many talents and abilities so we don’t have to focus on their disabilities. When we help people in need with money, clothes or food it should be considered as just a temporary type of help. But the slogan of this project is ‘HELP OTHERS TO HELP THEMSELVES’. In the future we want more projects that determine the strengths of people with disabilities and to make these people develop their talents and abilities. So in the future they will be self-sufficient and will be able to earn a living on their own. That would be the best long term solution. We undertook this project also to make some “noise” about the importance of the education for deaf children and children with disabilities in general. There are many parents that keep their children with special needs at home, which is wrong because school is a great way for them to improve as persons and also raises their chances to have a profession tomorrow”.
Mirela Nurce, fashion designer says: “These children do not need to be treated with pity. Many of them are very good creators, they have a great intellect and if they are supported, they can be worthy members of a worthy society. I supported the project also because as an artist I perfectly know what is it like to want to desperately express yourself and you cannot. So, I saw this as a perfect way to make these amazing little artists feel appreciated and important”.
Photo credits: Armand Habazaj, Andi Allko, Arbor Allaraj