Designer, artist, writer, and educator Céline Seeman has drawn from her refugee background to inspire her life’s work. Seeman, at age 3, fled the civil war in Lebanon with her mother and sister. The family settled in Montreal. At 13 she returned to Lebanon. This was a decision that would influence the course of her career.
Seeman witnessed the human and environmental cost of the war when she returned to Lebanon. Yet in spite of the detrimental social, economic, and environmental effects of civil war, Seeman saw the persistence of fashion and beauty in women’s lives. She believes it empowered refugee women within, and after the chaos of conflict.
Seeman supplemented her interest in fashion with climate issues. Self-described as an ‘equity climate designer’, she exposed the intersection between fashion and climate change. She coined the term ‘fashion activism’ which argues the medium is inherently political and can be used for social, cultural, and environmental change.
The designer established the Slow Factory in 2012. The company has grown an Instagram to almost half a million in ten years. Slow Factory aims to research materials, create sustainable attire, and educate industries on the impact of fast fashion. It is founded on the principle that ‘pollution is by design, injustice is by design - and therefore we use design to imagine, architect, and build new paradigms’. Seeman highlights that this pollution disproportionately affects the global south. She posits that there is no effective way to disassemble fashion without resorting to methane-producing landfill sites which contaminate surrounding environments.
The Slow Factory’s projects include One x One. It offers ingenious solutions for sustainable fashion using non-toxic materials. The project’s premise is to create a circular economy where items do not have a start and end date, empower artisans, and use regenerative technologies. The project links scientists and designers with a focus on fashion’s long-term impact, rather than ephemeral beauty.
Seeman considers her interest in activism to be drawn from her participation in the Arab Spring. Throughout her career she has shown a persistent faith in the power of people to create social change. Seeman’s pioneering work for people and planet fosters hope for her latest global movement.
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Flora is a third year Music student at Oxford University. She researched and wrote this article as part of the Oxford University Micro Internship programme.