Angela Luna seriously is trying to make a difference in the world.
Her socially conscious, philanthropic clothing label Adiff is an offshoot of her senior thesis at The New School’s Parsons School of Design, which was inspired by the refugee crisis in the Middle East and Europe. Her Crossing the Boundary outerwear is unisex, one size and transformable, with such multifunctional items as one style of jacket that has zippers that can be used to insert poles for a five-person tent. Another has a backpack that can be unzipped into a cape for added warmth. Other items have features to lighten the burden of transporting children, or floatation devices for emergency situations.
In a new survey released last week, the United Nations Refugee Agency reported that 65.3 million people were displaced at the end of last year. Luna’s career path was inadvertently diverted after reading news coverage of the problem. Somehow eveningwear design, which she had studied for three years, no longer held the same luster.
“I’ve always tried to keep up with current events. It came down to this one night when I was reading about a horrible boat crash with a lot of these refugees. I was doing as much research about it as I could. In class the next day, talking about runway shows, you really [had to] wonder, ‘What is your place in the world?’ ” Luna said. “It seems that everything that is happening over there is so far away from our lives in the U.S. It gets put on the news one second, and then it gets covered up the next second because a dog in Oregon can bark the alphabet.”
Akin to the Toms Shoes business model, which donates one pair of shoes for every pair sold, Luna said she plans to donate some garments “to those suffering from the events that inspired the clothing.” Building upon pants and shirts made by a New York garment-center sample-maker, the Boston native makes all of the outwear in her Upper East Side apartment. After participating in last week’s United Nations Global Compact Leaders Summit, Luna set up one of her jackets as a tent and presented other items from her collection at a sustainability reception. She will return to U.N. headquarters later this month for the Nexus Global Summit, and then again for the JCI Global Partnership Summit.
The International Rescue Committee has invited her to join its GenR (as in, Generation Rescue), a group of young, influential humanitarians committed to their own social causes. Talks are also under way with the IRC about distribution and donations. “Both the IRC and the U.N. will be my two main channels,” Luna said.
With a few offers on the table, she is still trying to figure out what the best path will be. Senior executives from an Asia-Pacific-based factory, a European luxury firm and a Chinese venture capital company have flown to New York to meet with Luna. A decision should be made by August. “I want to be sure that people have the right intentions. Right now, I’m still in the talking stage, but there is the funding out there,” she said. “It seems that everyone is very, very interested. They want to make as many as possible.”
The aim is to start shipping the 21 pieces in June 2017, with garments ranging in price from $50 to $300. Burak Cakmak, the dean of the School of Fashion at Parsons, is among her advisers.
Luna was inspired partially by another Parsons alum, Lucy Jones, the 2015 winner of the Womenswear Designer of the Year Award for her designs for wheelchair-bound people. The two have since become friendly and may team up down the road on other solution-based design initiatives.