Asylum seekers from Mali and Gambia walked down a fashion runway at Florence's Pitti Uomo exhibition on 14 January. The initiative is aimed at helping migrants blend into Italy's art scene and better integrate into the society.
Migrants who had previously laboured as construction workers and farmers were seen walking the runway with professional model-like aura in tailored-fitted suits, tasselled jumpers and uniquely designed hats. The models were shortlisted by the ITC Ethical Fashion Initiative, a project aimed at using fashion as a vehicle for development.
"As we are in Italy and have a huge refugee crisis we also want to show that migrants are a resource," Simone Cipriani, EFI head and founder, told AFP News before the event. "We are setting up a training centre for refugees and migrants in Italy to work in the industry of fashion and be enabled to go back home and set up their own businesses there."
The initiative was jointly launched by Lai-momo, which is an Italian organisation working to further the awareness of migrant issues. The organisation has been instrumental in running several reception centres in Italy's Bologna.
Migrant models between the ages of 19 and 27 who appeared in the show were also selected from reception centres in Italy. Three migrants were selected for the catwalk while two participated in a photo shoot. The models were given tutorials before the catwalk and one of them reportedly paused during the walk to flash a supermodel smile for the cameras.