Fashion Labels Accused of Recruiting Girls Who Have Fled War-Torn African Countries

by Gee NY
Image credit: The Times

An exclusive investigation by The Sunday Times has revealed that major fashion brands are recruiting models from a refugee camp in Kakuma, Kenya.

The camp, one of the largest in the world, is home to over 280,000 people, many of whom have fled conflict and hardship in South Sudan.

In interviews conducted by The Sunday Times, numerous models were identified, some still pursuing modeling careers in Europe, while others had returned to Kakuma with little financial success.

Kakuma’s local scouts play a critical role in this process. They search for modeling talent and share photographs with fashion industry decision-makers, often scrutinizing the models’ Instagram profiles. For the young men and women in Kakuma, modeling offers an opportunity to escape their challenging circumstances.

Modeling agencies that draw talent from the camp argue that they are providing refugees with a chance for a better life while simultaneously enhancing diversity on the runway.

The CEO of Select, one of the world’s premier modeling agencies, visited a hotel near Kakuma this past summer in search of talent. During his visit, he took measurements of the models to assess their sizes.

Luigi Puglisi, CEO of Select, clarified the agency’s position, stating:

“Models come for shows for three to four weeks. Then they return home.”

He emphasized that these models are not relocated to Europe permanently. However, Puglisi also noted that the agency sustains significant financial losses, in the hundreds of thousands of euros and pounds, due to unrecoverable model advances each year.

This revelation raises important ethical questions about the fashion industry’s recruitment practices and its impact on the lives of refugees from Kakuma.

According to one report, after the ladies are flown to Europe to take part in fashion castings, “some return within days or weeks, often in debt.”

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