Forced to flee Afghanistan, a refugee brings her sewing skills to Colorado

Forced to flee Afghanistan, a refugee brings her sewing skills to Colorado

Barker Maa took his idea and designed a partnership between refugee organizations and his fashion studio. Its goal is to help local designers grow their brands while providing jobs and skills to Coloradans, especially Denver’s refugee and immigrant populations.

Factory Fashion plans to adapt the environment to accommodate prayer times and ensure they don’t ask employees to make clothes they are not comfortable with. Barker Maa said the studio is considering separating Afghan men and women – at their request to make the working environment more comfortable.

Najibullah was recently hired at Factory Fashion. He is a deaf and mute Afghan refugee who speaks with his wife using sign language, who then speaks through a translator provided by the International Rescue Committee. He told Rocky Mountain PBS that he faced religious and racial hatred while trying to find a job. However, he said this opportunity with Factory Fashion was a dream job.

Najibullah Dawrankhil and his wife, Hasina, as they speak through a translator with the International Rescue Committee.

The only thing keeping Najibullah and Hasina awake at night, they said, is their two teenage children whom they had to leave behind in Afghanistan. They are still waiting for documents to come to the United States. Hasina said not a day goes by that they don’t think about their family being reunited again.

“Our only hope is that our children get a better education here and grow up to be good people,” Hasina said. “To give this love and support that we have received from everyone in the United States”

Factory Fashion as a place for emerging designers and small to medium brands to design and produce their fashion lines in Colorado. For designers, this location offers a professional work room, opportunities to collaborate with local and national facilities, marketing resources, and a studio.

Darlene C. Ritts is the Founder and Creative Director of DCR Studios, which creates clothing for various communities, including high-profile drag queens. She is a Factory Fashion customer and said DCR Studios’ mission to ethically source her designs aligns perfectly with Factory Fashion.

“I want things that touch my skin to be handled well,” Ritts said. “I want people who put in the energy to do the things that are right and personal about me to be happy hands.”

For Najibullah, he happily makes these clothes despite the designs being a bit different from what he is used to. But he has the talent to adapt.

“It’s very easy for me, I can just watch it and do it. I don’t have a problem with it,” Najibullah said in interpretation. “That’s mostly what goes through my head. just looking at different designs and trying to make them, and that’s exciting for me.”


Sonia Gutierrez is a multimedia journalist at Rocky Mountain PBS. You can reach her at [email protected]

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