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A note from the founder about our 2017–18 design

The 2017 design

The idea for this design came about during a meeting between an Afghan man and a lawyer from Advocates Abroad, while I was interpreting in Chios. We were trying to work out the basic geography of his life; where he was born, where he worked, where he trained as an army officer, where his wife was from, where his son was born. Crucially, we needed the details of where he was captured and tortured by the Taliban, which we were hoping to include in his case as a key part in his claim for asylum. We struggled to find some of the English transliterations of the villages, and I promised the lawyer at the end of the meeting to take the map he had made home so that I could do some work on it that evening. While researching the names of the villages that night, I realised that I was holding his life-story in my hands. That map is now on the central design for this year, which you can see on all the shirts.

During that first meeting, I had noticed that his nine-year-old son had been painfully bored. At our next meeting, I made sure to bring some paper and a pen on me, as I knew that his father was trying to teach him to write in Persian. During the meeting, his son busied himself with a poem that his father had written himself and taught him. Whenever the lawyer and I were trying to work on small details amongst ourselves, the father would dictate a couple more lines to his son. At the end of the meeting, I had to rush off before I could read it, but on our last day in Chios, the father presented me with the poem once more, but this time written up by his son ‘neatly and properly’. This is now the design on the tote bags. It largely deals with maturity and coming of age. I like to think that you can trace the family’s story and hopes through what we’ve produced this year, even though they’re only snippets of what I imagine is going through their heads right now.