MADE51 Bringing Refugee-made Crafts to the Global Market

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The world is facing a refugee crisis. To date, an unprecedented 65.6 million people around the world have been forced out of their homes, among them nearly 22.5 million refugees. Within this growing population lies a wealth of talented artisans and craftspeople. This is where MADE51 comes in.

Initiated by the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) and supported by a global network of local social enterprises, MADE51 helps refugee artisans achieve independence by integrating them into viable supply chains and creating a means to market their crafts worldwide.

While supporting a sustainable livelihood for talented makers fleeing war or persecution, MADE51 also helps keep traditional crafts alive, preserving indigenous techniques and material processes that might otherwise be lost.

By providing the opportunity to work and earn a living, MADE51 aims to offer a stable framework in which displaced people can rebuild their lives in dignity and peace. Whether based in Jordan or Thailand, Rwanda or Afghanistan, the artisans in MADE51’s network are all paid a fair wage, earning them income to meet their basic needs, and safeguarding their sense of self-worth and independence.

From intricate basketry by Burundian refugees living in camps in Tanzania to refugee artisans in Thailand adapting traditional bamboo-weaving techniques to make modern lampshades, MADE51 products are not just beautifully crafted objects, they are artifacts from endangered cultures and testaments to the potential contribution that the creativity of refugee makers can make to the world’s economy and material culture.

Featuring twelve product lines made in collaboration with local social enterprises all over the world, MADE51’s debut collection was launched at the Ambiente trade fair in Frankfurt this February. The collection includes complex pile rugs created by fifty-seven refugee Afghan artisans of Arzu Studio Hope.

The sheep’s wool rugs are made using a traditional hand-knotting technique widely employed in Afghanistan. In Jordan, Syrian refugee artisans are crafting a series of cashmere throws and bags for the collection, using traditional crochet and embroidery techniques. Meanwhile in Tanzania, fifty Burundian refugee artisans are using their skills in traditional basketry to weave a series of natural vessels and wall hangings. In Burkina Faso, Malian refugees are combining hammered bronze and copper with hand-cured leather to create bowls, boxes, and pieces of jewellery, intertwining the cultural identity and symbolism of the Tuareg culture in every piece.

The MADE51 collection also features embroidered home textiles from Pakistan, wool kilims and cushions from Rabat in Afghanistan, scarves and accessories from Egypt, lampshades and upcycled soft furnishings from Lebanon, bags and fashion accessories from both Kenya and Malaysia, modern basketry from Rwanda, and smoked bamboo lighting from Thailand.

As a result of MADE51, hundreds of refugee artisans are now equipped to contribute to the global economy; it is only through sales and a genuine demand for their products nevertheless that refugee artisans will be able to employ their skills and traditions to earn an income through their craft. By including the MADE51 collection in their sourcing plans, retailers and brands have a vital role in helping refugees achieve self-reliance. Retailers and brands can be part of the solution to this global crisis.

For more information about MADE51 and its launch collection, please visit the official website or contact Jodi Moss at or +44 (0)7910 705147.

This is an edited version of the original source article provided by UNHCR