Symbolism and solidarity: Fashion label Epimonia turns refugees’ life jackets into clothing

Symbolism and solidarity: Fashion label Epimonia turns refugees’ life jackets into clothing



After arriving in the United States at a young age as a refugee from Somalia, Mohamed Malim has gone on to found a fashion label called Epimonia that’s shattering negative stereotypes about refugees while supporting them in various ways. Based in Minnesota, the start-up collects life jackets worn by refugees and transforms them into ready-to-wear pieces, accessories and jewelry.

Mohamed Malim is sending out a strong signal with his fashion label Epimonia, which means ‘perseverance’ in Greek, created to shine a spotlight on the millions of refugees around the world who have been forced to flee their countries. Beyond the financial and emotional support provided, the label’s vocation is to raise awareness about the plight of these exiled people, and above all, to share inspiring stories of success rather than perpetuate clichés. The clothes and accessories offered by Epimonia are crafted by seamstresses who have themselves fled their countries.

A success story

Mohamed Malim is himself a former refugee, born in a camp in Kenya, who came to the United States nearly two decades ago after fleeing the civil war in Somalia. Now founder and creative director of the Epimonia label, he launched his start-up to enable as many refugees as possible to receive the same support he and his family received when they arrived in the United States. And all by using the ultimate symbol of the often perilous flight to a foreign land, the life jacket.

Epimonia collects the life jackets worn by refugees as they cross the Mediterranean to the island of Lesbos, Greece, where they are then left abandoned on the beach. These life jackets are then transformed into hoodies, T-shirts, parkas, denim jackets, tote bags, hats and bracelets. Each piece in the collection features an orange rectangle evoking these life jackets, with or without an accompanying message. “Refugees Welcome,” “Refugees United” or “Citizens of the World, We are Refugees,” are slogans featured on some of the brand’s clothing items.

Cleaning up beaches, supporting refugees

With this initiative, Epimonia is working to clean the beaches of thousands of discarded life jackets, helping to protect the planet, while supporting refugees in their quest for a better life. The goal is to help them with employment and housing, as well as scholarships and citizenship applications.

“We are driven to break down negative stereotypes of refugees often seen in the media. We use our platform to collaborate and partner with refugee organizations, sports teams, artists, and more to share inspiring refugee stories. Our goal is to create awareness and elevate the global refugee community,” reads the brand’s official website.

Through its EpimoniaLab, which aims to find new ways to recycle life jackets, the label has already partnered with a number of organizations and personalities, including the Minnesota United FC soccer club or the artist, Denimani.

By the end of 2021, nearly 90 million people had been forcibly displaced around the world, including more than 27 million refugees, according to the UN Refugee Agency. Among them, more than half are under 18 years old. This situation has been exacerbated by the war in Ukraine. The international organization now estimates that four million people could eventually flee the country.

Since 2018, Epimonia has recycled more than 500 life jackets, allowing it to give $45,000 to refugees in the form of donations.

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