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Laura LUNGAROTTI – IOM Western Balkans Coordinator

United Nations senior leader, passionate about sustainable fashion and inclusion of migrants. Promoter of a sustainable fashion brand called No Nation Fashion. Ms. Laura LUNGAROTTI (Italy) officially assumed the position of Coordinator for the Western Balkans and Representative of IOM in Bosnia and Herzegovina in January 2021. In this capacity she leads the IOM actions and strategy in Bosnia Herzegovina and the Western Balkans. She oversees more than 700 staff across the Western Balkans, while being based in Sarajevo.

Ms. LUNGAROTTI has 20 years of experience working in international humanitarian aid and development. First with the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, then with the Italian COSPE NGO and since 2003 with the UN Migration Agency IOM in Geneva, Egypt, Yemen, Morocco, Senegal/ West Africa, and Mauritania in various capacities. Since 2021, Laura has been leading a sustainable fashion initiative called No Nation Fashion. This is a brand born out of diversity and the power of inclusion of migrants in their host societies.

Fashion garments from this new brand have participated in various international events, including the New York Fashion Week and Sarajevo Fashion Week.

She holds a Bachelor’s degree in political science – International Relations from the University of Firenze, Italy and a Master’s degree in Anthropology of Development from SOAS, University of London and a PostGraduate Diploma from the Faculty of Educational Sciences, University of Firenze on Education and Cultural Pluralism. Laura speaks fluently English, French, Italian, Spanish and has basic level of Arabic language too. She is learning local languages in BiH.

Laura Lungarotti at opening Wearinit together Ph: François Lhoumeau – IOM

MAG42: Laura, last month, the exhibition „Wearin’it Together! A Journey of Inclusion through Fashion“ travelled to Belgrade after its opening in Sarajevo in 2023 and before its showcase to the European Parliament at the end of the month. Could you tell us more about the genesis of this project and the No Nation Fashion brand?

Laura: No Nation Fashion project is a story of how talented and enterprising people from around the world were able to draw on support from people in BIH and create beauty and value. Born out of collaboration between designers, migrant creativity, and IOM’s vision in the Temporary Reception Centers (TRCs) in BiH, the NNF brand embodies the belief that migration can create opportunities for both migrants and host communities.

The mission of the NNF initiative is to create clothing items that celebrate the meeting of cultures and harness the potential of migration. It aims to build more inclusive societies through fashion, and foster cultural exchange, creative collaboration, and mutual learning, promoting social integration and understanding between migrants and local communities through diverse fashion expressions.

Wearin’it together is a dear project of ours and result of a unique collaboration between the No Nation Fashion brand powered by IOM, Franco Pagetti, the VII Academy and many other partners who have been part of this journey. The story of „Wearin’it together“ started in July 2023 in Belgrade and Sarajevo when Franco Pagetti, captured the essence of migrants currently in Bosnia and Herzegovina and Serbia, adorned by No Nation Fashion garments. Wearin’it together is challenging established narratives surrounding migration and aims to foster a debate on solutions.

The garments featured in the exhibition, made jointly by migrants and local designers, represent a powerful symbol of unity, creativity, and the transformative power of fashion as a medium of expression.

Ph: François Lhoumeau – IOM

MAG42: How important is it to continue strengthening social cohesion in communities by IOM, where people are on the move in Bosnia and Herzegovina? What is the situation concerning other countries of the Western Balkans now?

Laura: Strengthening social cohesion in Bosnia and Herzegovina is paramount. More than 25 years after the war in BiH, divisive rhetoric and unresolved war legacies persist. The increasing presence of migrants has BiH has become another source of division, exacerbating already precarious relations between migrant populations and host communities. Limited opportunities for meaningful interactions hinder social cohesion efforts, and the has experienced high emigration of young professionals, in part due to the socioeconomic gridlock, high unemployment rates, social exclusion etc.

By fostering social cohesion, we ensure that both migrants and host communities feel included, respected, and valued. This not only promotes peaceful coexistence but also enhances economic development and stability. Strengthening social cohesion requires a multilateral approach, including through youth programming, creating opportunities for dialogue and exchange on migration and diversity, and building linkages between migrants and host communities through social cohesion activities. Through collaborative efforts, IOM aims to create inclusive and resilient communities that benefit all individuals in Bosnia and Herzegovina and foster a sense of belonging and unity amidst diversity.

In other countries of the Western Balkans, similar challenges persist. It is imperative to address these issues and target interventions that prioritize social integration and inclusion. Building sustainable mechanisms for social cohesion and reconciliation and increasing individual and community resilience.

Ph: François Lhoumeau– IOM
MAG42: “Wearin’ it Together!” is a bold step forward in approaching migration through an innovative, creative, and refreshing perspective, which sheds light on individual stories, personalities, and achievements of people in migration in Serbia and Bosnia and Herzegovina. Photographed by one of the world-famous artists Franco Pagetti, in Serbia and Bosnia and Herzegovina during July 2023.

What this project means for the community and what are the reactions?

Laura: “Wearin’ it Together!” represents a groundbreaking approach to understanding migration. It aims to challenge the traditional narratives surrounding migration. News images of migration around the world have usually portrayed migrants and refugees as victims or threat to societies, borders, health and security. These dominating media narratives have impacted the negative public opinion on migrants and refugees in the Western Balkans region and fueled many problematic issues, especially within communities hosting migrants in the Western Balkans. By juxtaposing high fashion with authentic migrant narratives, the campaign’s visuals disrupt stereotypes, prompting viewers to confront their biases and embrace diversity as a source of strength and innovation, and offer a humanizing perspective often overlooked in mainstream discourse.By promoting dialogue and reflection, this exhibition challenges existing narratives and advocates for a more sustainable and integrated approach to migration governance in the Western Balkans.

Ultimately, “Wearin’ it Together!” is not just about fashion; it’s about fostering dialogue, and cultivating a more inclusive understanding of migration, especially within communities. It recognizes migration’s transformative potential, and the role of fashion serves as a powerful tool for promoting inclusion.

The community’s response has been overwhelmingly positive, fostering empathy, understanding, and solidarity.

Ph: François Lhoumeau – IOM

MAG42: How can we or others support the No Nation Fashion, what are the prospects for collaboration?

Laura: From its beginning in the TRCs, No Nation Fashion became an established brand, with several partnerships concluded, including with the International Fashion Academy of Paris and the Polimoda school in Firenze. As the brand is expanding, our goal is for NNF to be self-sustainable. In this process, we are engaging with the private sector and textile industries in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia and beyond, and there are several ways to support: Donation of textiles to support the production process, collaborative partnerships for join projects and initiatives, joint capsule collection to collaborate on specific fashion lines, etc.

Ph: François Lhoumeau– IOM

MAG42: What is your message for our readers and how community citizens can be involved to help the process of living together better for all?

Laura: My message to readers is simple: Embrace diversity, foster inclusion, and promote dialogue. In today’s interconnected world, we must recognize that our differences are our strengths and that by working together, we can build resilient, harmonious communities where everyone has the opportunity to thrive.

Community citizens play a pivotal role in this endeavor by actively engaging in initiatives that promote understanding, tolerance, and cooperation. Let’s recognize the transformative power of migration. Far from being a source of division, migration brings with it opportunities for cultural exchange, enrichment and socio-economic development. It is through these interactions that our societies evolve, embracing new customs, ideas, and perspectives.


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