By Hubert Ostendorf, fiftyfifty
A German design student has collaborated with street paper vendors in Düsseldorf to create a charity fashion brand.
Karine Poghossian, a Communication Design student at Folkwang University of the Arts, worked with fiftyfifty as part of her Bachelor thesis, which asks “How can we give people on the street a voice and lower the barrier between them and society?”
Under the supervision of her professor, Heribert Birnbach, and a special partnership with the street paper, she created the fashion label “Vagabond”. According to Karine, Vagabond “not only captures the spirit of the times, but can also support charitable purposes through its economic potential.”
The result is three “cheeky, trendy, authentic” t-shirt designs made by fiftyfifty sellers during one of their monthly vendor meetings. Karine asked the vendors to draw on their own experiences of being on the streets, and convey them using paint and paper.
Susi, in her mid-40s, painted a bright red heart with her fingers. But why a heart? “I wanted to show that people on the street would like to experience more warmhearted encounters and less discrimination,” she explains.
Longtime fiftyfifty vendor Tom also took part in the project. He says his happy and defiant line drawing of a face demonstrates that “a mixture of humour and bite is a good survival strategy” – especially on the street but also in “normal” life.
“I wanted to show that people on the street would like to experience more warmhearted encounters and less discrimination.”
The project also gave some vendors an opportunity to vent their frustrations. Detlev is a former drug addict who keeps his head above water by selling fiftyfifty. He says he is irritated by occasional “corrosive encounters with intolerant circumstances of the time”. It inspired the simple comment for his t-shirt design: “Bullshit”.
Bullshit “with exclamation marks,” Detlev emphasizes.
However the Vagabond t-shirts are not just designed to catch eyes with their powerful messages, but also to capture hearts and minds with their social concept.
The t-shirts are being sold for €30 each. Proceeds directly benefit fiftyfifty vendors and other homeless and low-income people helped by the street paper. The profits are being used to buy sleeping bags for the fiftyfifty Good Night Bus and to run its “vision:teilen (sharing visions)” initiative.
“And so the homeless fashion designers contribute to protecting themselves and their friends from the cold,” adds Karine.
Translated from German to English by Rachael Ward.