MADE51 debuts in Japan at Interior Lifestyle

Press statement on MADE51 debut in Japan from 17-19 July, 2019 at Interior Lifestyle Tokyo.

UNHCR Japan Press Release (Japanese)

Interior Lifestyle Tokyo 2019 Press Release (Japanese)

17 July 2019 (TOKYO, Japan). MADE51, a global initiative of UNHCR, the United Nations Refugee Agency, today in Japan debuted a collection of home décor and accessories. From 17-19 July 2019, the MADE51 collection is on display at Interior Lifestyle Tokyo, an international trade fair where buyers and brands connect.

MADE51 is a global initiative that connects refugee artisans with social enterprises to design, create and market unique home décor and fashion accessories. In 2018, MADE51 launched the first-ever global collection of refugee-made products at Ambiente trade show in Frankfurt, Germany. The 2019 collection, which is now on show in Tokyo, is a wider celebration of traditional cultures, skilled craftsmanship and human resilience in the face of unimaginable adversity.

MADE51’s presence at Interior Lifestyle Tokyo is the first time the collection has been shown outside of Europe. Alongside the exhibition of the products, MADE51 has been invited to deliver a press conference to introduce the collection to media and buyers. This press conference will feature remarks from UNHCR Representative in Japan, Dirk Hebeker, as well as a presentation from Heidi Christ, UNHCR’s Global Manager of MADE51. The press conference will take place from 10:30 – 11:30 AM on the 18th July at Tokyo Big Sight. More details on the exhibition available here.

By modernizing traditional skills, building business acumen, partnering with social enterprises, and engaging buyers who can source the product lines, UNHCR is connecting refugee-made artisanal products with international consumers. MADE51 products are not just beautifully crafted. They exude a real essence of humanity. They tell the timely and important story about how refugees can rebuild their futures and, in so doing, act as powerful contributors to the global economy.

Product highlights in Tokyo include:

  • Lighting

Quietly opulent lightshades, created from hand-dyed yarns and leather, wrapped around straw, affixed to hand-hammered bronze plates. These elegant, sculptural pieces transcend the traditional techniques used to make them, fitting seamlessly into a minimalist-modern aesthetic. The collection is crafted by Tuareg refugees from Mali, currently living in camps in Burkina Faso, working in partnership with AAKS.


  • Jewelry

Delicate, captivating embroidered bangles, pendants and earrings that are evocative of the stories of their makers. The collection features patterns inspired by the landscapes of the Chin people and designs reminiscent of Middle Eastern tile motifs. Refugees from Myanmar, Syria and Afghanistan, living in Malaysia, craft each piece in partnership with Earth Heir.


  • Home Textiles

Exquisitely embroidered throws and pillowcases, made of rich wool fabrics, that showcase Afghan needlework techniques that been passed down for generations – with a splash of fun for good measure. The eye-catching collection is handcrafted by Afghan refugee artisans living in camps throughout Pakistan, in partnership with Artisan Links.


MADE51 is currently operating in 15 countries across Africa, Asia and the Middle East. Refugee communities another 10 countries are expected to  join the initiative soon. MADE51 display at Interior Lifestyle is located in Tokyo Big Sight, West Hall 1, A-41. Buyers and press are invited to come view products and meet the team. Case studies are available on request.  

Press photos available here.


Quotes on MADE51:

A growing market opportunity for refugees 

Heidi Christ, MADE51 Global Lead, said: “The global artisanal market is worth USD36 billion, and recent studies have forecast the market to grow 12% each year over the next four years. The artisan sector is the second largest employer in the developing world, behind agriculture, with 65% of handicraft exports coming from developing countries. This represents a huge potential economic opportunity for refugees. But, realizing this potential requires partners and ongoing commercial success. Only with a genuine demand for their products, and access to markets to meet this demand, will refugee artisans be able to harness their skills and traditions to earn an income through their craft." 

Ethical consumption

Heidi Christ, MADE51 Global Lead, said: “MADE51 takes a fresh approach to ethical consumption and aims to create a sustainable ecosystem in the process. In partnership with the World Fair Trade Organization, we ensure that refugees are paid a fair wage for their work. Our artisans strive to reduce environmental impact by using locally-sourced raw materials and repurposing waste whenever possible.

Striking woven wall plateaus from Tanzania are created using natural grasses and recycled grain sacks. Modern, industrial-chic lanterns from Lebanon are created using upcycled advertising banners. Consumers today are spending more on “curated consumption” than ever before. This drive for individuality and personality through a unique curation of home design and decoration, combined with the opportunity to help build better futures, is what makes MADE51 such an attractive brand proposition.”

Why social enterprises partner in MADE51

Hisham El Gazzar, Co-Founder of Yadawee in Cairo, Egypt, said: “We are wholly committed to including refugees in our production – not only because it is morally correct to do so, but also because it makes good business sense. The refugee artisans we work with have incredible skills, learn new techniques quickly, and are reliable and committed to their craft. The direct collaboration between the refugee artisans and our Egyptian artisans has led to the development of new product lines that add to the value of the company and allow us to give back more to the community and contribute more to local development.”

Kara Hook, Director, WomenCraft Social Enterprise in Tanzania, said: “While we have an amazing base of local artisans we have been working with for over ten years, working with refugees in Mtendeli Camp in Tanzania has given us a new appreciation for the difference we can make in the lives of people forced to flee their homes and start over anew, often with little but their skills and work ethic to rely on. By placing orders with them we have seen how their creativity can flourish, while earning much-needed income. And people love what they create – they love the story and the incredible workmanship they see in each woven work of art.”

Artisan Perspectives

Spés Kaneza, Artisan group leader in Mahama camp, Rwanda, said: “Part of my responsibility as an empowered woman is to empower other people to do the right thing. I believe in giving others what you have been given.”

Nyamvura Koronaria, Artisan group leader in Mtendeli camp, Tanzania, said: “My mother taught me how to weave when I was 17 years old...I would never have imagined that I could one day make a living from my weaving and provide for my family…Weaving in the camp also gives me something to do, a purpose, and a sense of belonging.”

High profile support

Filippo Grandi, UN High Commissioner for Refugees, said: “Refugees have skills and talents that only need a chance to grow and flourish. Within each piece lies a story of history and culture, and the chance for a person who has fled war and persecution to offer something of beauty and style to the world.”

Kelly Clements, Deputy High Commissioner for Refugees, said: “Rather than viewing tens of millions of refugees across the globe as a burden, MADE51 sees untapped talent and potential that, if unlocked, can directly benefit displaced women, men, and children, as well as host communities and local businesses.”

Angelina Jolie, UNHCR Special Envoy, said: “We need more initiatives like this. Nobody wants to be a refugee or to live on aid, they want to lead dignified, useful lives, like any of us. So I hope this is just the beginning.”

Helena Christensen, UNHCR High Profile Supporter and Danish Supermodel, on MADE51 in Mahama Camp in Rwanda, said: “Amazing women…are part of [MADE51]. They are empowered, earning money and building a community and friends at the same time. With UNHCR’s support, their craftsmanship is being linked to local social enterprises and international markets. It is clearly helping refugees… secure a sustainable, long-term future.”

Gugu Mbatha-Raw, UNHCR High Profile Supporter and British Actress, on MADE51 in Mahama Camp in Rwanda, said: “It’s uplifting to see these talented women getting the opportunity to earn their own money, while learning creative and business skills. But MADE51 also creates a vital healing environment, a feeling of dignity, hope and a sense of working together to create a new community.”