Many Syrians are forced to leave their homes worsening the refugee crisis. Most of the time they’re forced to leave their personal belongings, even necessities like blankets and coats. Students at London’s Royal College of Art have designed an innovative piece of clothing for refugees displaced across Europe: a coat that doubles as a tent or a sleeping bag.
Though the coat is still in a prototype stage, the interior design students and textile students are hoping to crowd fund production of the garment on Kickstarter. They are hoping to deliver the first batch to Syrian men an women in July 2016. Wall London will cover the cost of making the factory ready prototype.
“Good design isn’t about technologies and devices—it has a social heart and a role to play in meeting the needs of people facing impossible challenges.” says Harriet Harris, RCA professor. Made of lightweight, waterproof Tyvek with an insulating Mylar lining, the coat’s materials are affordable enough to make it feely distributable to refugees once its mass-produced. The three quarter length coat features a hood and large storage pockets for keeping documents and personal belongings dry. The toughest part of the design process was figuring out how to convert the jacket into a shelter. Hidden along the back seam are plastic rods, similar to those used in kites, which help erect the piece into a tent and slide into pockets when not in use. One adult and one child can fit inside.
Describing their creation as a ‘multifunctional wearable dwelling’ offers an example of how are and design can be used for social good. Harris also said “What this project demonstrates is keenness of students to use their design talent to make a difference where it matters. The refugee crisis is a humanitarian crisis that needs as many spirited acts of compassion as possible to help address the problem.” Though the wearable won’t solve the problem, it addresses a small part of it.
The team spoke with Medicines Sans Frontiers to get an idea of a typical refugee’s journey, and created that into three ‘stages of use’: coat, sleeping bag and tent. “These three aspects adapt to the conditions a refugee would experience through their 2 to 5 week journey,” Harris said.