Planting fragrant seeds of hope


Planting fragrant seeds of hope

Za’atari Refugee Camp – September 2017

A group of 24 Syrian women in Jordan’s Za’atari refugee camp have been trained in fragrance creation by Givaudan fragrances to help create new beauty products and local businesses. They are part of an initiative Helen Storey is getting off the ground titled ”Beauty co-op”, enhancing the women’s, already considerable skills and talents, is part of a wider project to further develop new opportunities by realising their entrepreneurial skills beyond the camp also.

Perfumer Dalia Izem and CFM Rawya Roumieh Catto, both based in Dubai, joined global business director Rhian Slee to help train the women. “We worked with Helen Storey to deliver a unique training these women would value and enjoy” said Rhian. “We adapted a three day course to provide a basic understanding of olfactive families and how to create fragrances. The local IRD community center was transformed into a real life perfumery lab”.

For these women, their dream is to create their own beauty products and build a business to support their families and improve the livelihoods and well-being of their friends and neighbours. The camp has moved beyond providing shelter, food and water and is now helping people build their own businesses.  Helen’s collaborations are one way to plant seeds of hope, bringing in specialists like Givaudan to provide new kinds of the training opportunities.

“Acknowledging the women as exemplary students and for their creative minds was equally as important to them as learning about International perfumery” said Dalia “seeing in their eyes the spark of creative ideas for the future made the experience even more overwhelming”.

“The energy of the training was so positive, with smiles on all the ladies faces, they were so engaged!” said Rawya “They went home with certificate in hand, filled with pride and stories to share with the family for generations”.

"The final day was spent exploring how the women can take what they’ve learned and develop their own businesses. We’re hoping to partner with some of our clients to support them further in the future.”

“We were all blown away by the quality and level of the women’s knowledge and skills" Helen said "together we have made some very exiting plans of how to create products which can be of value to markets within and beyond the camp – Made in Za’atari by …. Could be a brand new ambition, showcasing the many talents of women makers in the camp, whilst developing a new way of working, where the power, skill and knowledge of the maker remains a tangible part of the product wherever it is sold.”

The team will be returning in 2018 to co design with the women, an Advanced Training course and to explore the early stages of enterprise making too.


GUEST BLOG - Sarah Harvey, Project Manager, Science Museum


GUEST BLOG - Sarah Harvey, Project Manager, Science Museum

So, Dress For Our Time has arrived at the Science Museum, London, complete with its latest digital adornment and we are thrilled!  Working in collaboration, Helen Storey and digital innovation agency Holition have created an artwork that is beautiful, thought provoking and which clearly visualises the truth behind the figures of one of the world’s most pressing issues, that of human movement around the globe.

The Science Museum have been hoping to work with Helen for many years now.  Her practice exploring cutting edge science, technology and global issues through the medium of fashion is quite unique and Dress For Our Time offered us the perfect opportunity to finally realise this aim. 

The dress sits alongside the newly opened exhibition Our Lives in Data (to 1st September 2017) which explores the invisible revolution of big data.  From our daily commute to our genes, more and more information about our lives is being recorded as huge amounts of data, even when we don’t realise it!  This rise in the accumulation of data has proved a rich ground for exploration by artists and creative communities who are able to interpret, imagine and interrogate the data in exciting and innovative ways, often revealing hidden truths behind the inaccessible numbers. 

Helen and Holition have done just that. Working with the latest data provided by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) Global Trends in Human Displacement report (June 2016) they have taken that raw and impersonal data and transformed it into an artwork which traces the journeys of refugees from the continents they have been forced to flee, to the countries in which they have found sanctuary.  Each point of light in the animation represents 100 human lives laying bare the scale of the movement and revealing not a map of the world but a map created by human movement.  

The animation on its own is beautiful and truly revealing but in the huge, noisy, crowded environment of the Science Museum it is the collaboration between fashion and data that is able to make visitors pause and reflect.   By projecting the animation onto Dress For Our Time, a dress made from a decommissioned UNHCR tent which once housed refugees, the artwork is grounded by its human story and history.  Through the dress and supporting film Helen has used the language of fashion in a truly unique way to draw people in to engaging with this very complex and important subject.

Data is being used to transform the world around us and how we understand that world.  It has the potential to tell powerful truths and human stories. What Dress For Our Time demonstrates is that sometimes it takes a creative and unique vision to penetrate the figures and genuinely make them meaningful and relevant.



Fears grow for Aleppo residents amid latest violence


Fears grow for Aleppo residents amid latest violence

Fresh fighting threatens hundreds of thousands of lives, driving shortages of food, medical supplies and mass displacements.

DAMASCUS, Syria – Intensified fighting in Aleppo in recent days has cut off humanitarian access to most parts of the city, with the resulting shortages of food, medical supplies and other essentials threatening the lives of hundreds of thousands of civilians.

The battle for control of Syria’s largest city has seen a wave of bombardments in the past week, killing at least 235 people and injuring dozens including pregnant women and children, according to civil defense and humanitarian agencies.

One of the oldest and iconic cities on earth, Aleppo was Syria’s economic hub and largest population centre before the war. Since the battle for Aleppo erupted in July 2012, it has suffered massive destruction and is currently divided between the government-held west and rebel-held east.

The violence has damaged critical civilian infrastructure including hospitals and the city’s water and electricity networks, leaving residents across the city with little access to medical care and no mains electricity or water.

“We are seriously concerned about the grave and dangerous situation facing civilians in Aleppo.”

Humanitarian access to the estimated 250,000 to 275,000 civilians trapped in the eastern part of the city has been cut off since early July, after fighting closed the main access route in and out of the area.

Aid agencies reported that some food deliveries have reached those trapped in the east in the past 48 hours, but nevertheless shortages have reportedly led to rationing of supplies, lack of access to fresh produce and soaring prices for food and other essential commodities.

Meanwhile, heavy fighting in recent days has also cut off the main access route used by UN agencies to deliver aid to civilians in the western part of the city, raising fears that civilians throughout the city are effectively cut off from any assistance.

“We are seriously concerned about the grave and dangerous situation facing hundreds of thousands of civilians in Aleppo, east and west and in surrounding villages, trapped by a conflict that has already cost them so much,” said Sajjad Malik, the representative of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees in Syria.

“We have received reports from colleagues of shortages of food or medical supplies affecting all parts of the city, and without unhindered humanitarian access the situation will only deteriorate,” Malik added. “We call upon all parties to the conflict to respect and protect the lives of civilians, medical facilities, schools, water infrastructure and humanitarian workers, and allow humanitarian organizations to carry out their duties in safety.”

“We lived through the horrors of bombings ... and now we’re going through it again.”

UN urged all relevant parties operating in Aleppo to agree to a cessation of hostiles that allows for sustained humanitarian access. At minimum, the UN requires 48-hour humanitarian pause or a full-fledged ceasefire so that the UN and partners have safe, regular and sustained access to people trapped behind the front lines.

The recent fighting has resulted in the displacement of thousands of people, according to UNHCR field staff inside Aleppo. The majority fled the so-called 1070 and Riyadah neighbourhoods, and while many are now staying with host families in other parts of the city, thousands are camped out in mosques, public gardens or on the streets.

UNHCR has been working to provide shelter and basic household items such as mattresses, blankets and other essentials to the recently displaced, alongside food, water and healthcare provision by other UN agencies.

One displaced resident in western Aleppo described the fear and desperation gripping the city following the latest wave of violence.

“We’ve witnessed fighting in the past years that amounts to full-scale war. We lived through the horrors of bombings, armed clashes, kidnapping, booby-trapped cars, snipers and shooting, and now we are going through it again,” he told UNHCR.

This article was originally published on the UNHCR website By: Firas Al-Khateeb and Vivian Toumeh   |  9 August 2016






Our relationship with Helen Storey started a number of years ago when we were developing links with London College of Fashion by hosting inspirational lectures, to Masters students and offering internships. We have now just launched our second major project with the Dress For Our Time at the Science Museum. 

For each project we have developed a four step iterative process. It starts from insight (academic, market and primary research), which then informs the strategy (plan and outcomes), which directs the creative (aesthetic concept), and ONLY THEN do we decide upon the technology (software or hardware) to build.  

At the heart of the process is UX (User Experience) which means researching, planning and testing after each of the four phases, how the ‘user’ (the viewer of the dress) will think, feel and do with what we create.

Matt Nelson was PM on the project, has a long-time interest in all kinds of refugees, he said, “a seed may be planted in the visitor/viewer’s mind that becomes a question or intrigue that makes them want to learn more, and then do more, about the refugee crisis

Five different programmes were used for the project, including Adobe illustrator, Photoshop, After Effects, Openframeworks and Resolume Arena 5. The latter was used for the projection mapping, whilst Openframeworks was utilized to code and programme the refugee data from the UN. The data visualisation was based upon the geographical movement of the refugees. Miguel explains that “we were trying to tell stories that were very human, through actual numbers. Data alone cannot describe or simplify the journey of a refugee”.  At Holition, we believe that art and science can and should co-create in order to provide new perspectives and this project is a perfect example of this notion. Noah adds, “the difficult part was creating a map no one has seen before, and that it was both an abstract artistic piece and logical and legible enough for the visitors to understand”.

The main visual concept emerged that ONE dot of light should represent the lives of ONE HUNDRED real people who have been forced to move home and therefore are described as ‘refugees’.

Our head creative Tommy said, “Dress For Our Time is a canvas to express a global problem through the innovative alchemy of Holition’s skills in creative data visualisation with Helen’s skills as an artist and fashion designer”. Our CEO Jonathan finally adds, “we wanted to encourage viewers to see the scale of the refugee crisis and to start to realise that, faced with the same set of circumstances, they too might have been forced to make the same decisions, and that in reality we are both no different”