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France: fashion icons rebranded to help homeless

A hard-hitting poster campaign in Paris uses famous designers' names to put homelessness on the agenda

07.05.2015
France: fashion icons rebranded to help homeless

By Hajer M'tiri

PARIS

 Paris, a city renowned for its glitzy fashion scene, has seen some of France's best-known designers' names subverted in a hard-hitting campaign to support the capital’s estimated 5,000 homeless people.

Parisians and visitors alike cannot help but notice the large posters spread across the city which bear an unnerving similarity to famous French fashion houses – but accompanied by harrowing scenes of poverty and homelessness.

Yves-Saint Laurent becomes "Yves Sans Logement" [Yves without a place to live], Christian Dior becomes "Christian Dehors" [Christian Outside] and Jean Paul Gaultier is rendered as Jean-Paul Galere" [Jean-Paul in trouble].

As passers-by stop to understand what it is all about, it strikes them that the posters feature pictures of homeless men instead of the usual glamorous models.

The three specially designed posters feature some sadly everyday Parisian scenes: a man asleep on a piece of cardboard on the street; another lying on a subway entrance; a third is asleep on a pile of plastic bags.

"Let’s try to have the elegance to help those who have nothing," reads the slogan on the 1,000 posters spread all around Paris.

This eye-catching publicity drive is the way the Aurore Association, a French social welfare organization, has chosen to launch a campaign to shed light on the country's rising homeless phenomenon.

"This advertising campaign aims to raise public awareness of the cause of the homeless, therefore we use the effect of Dior, Gaultier and Saint Laurent to attract people's attention," says Eric Pliez, Aurore director, speaking to the Anadolu Agency.

"We mixed fashion with a social cause to highlight the harsh conditions and exclusion homeless people are experiencing, but through a dignified and decent way, not a pessimistic one," Pliez added.

"We used world-known brand designers' names to make the invisible visible; in this case, the homeless people that we pass by every day without really seeing them," explains Perrine Dequecker, Aurore’s communications director.

In France, there are an estimated 3.5 million people living in substandard housing, among them 142,000 homeless known classified as "SDF" [sans domicile fixe], according to data from housing advocacy group, the Abbe Pierre Foundation.

These figures are up 50 percent from 10 years ago, according to the foundation’s latest report in February this year.

Families, immigrants, young people and those with mental illnesses are often vulnerable to homelessness by living in unsafe accommodation such as tents, caravans, shacks, on the street or even in woods, often without access to electricity or water.

INSEE, France’s national institute for statistics, estimates that some 8.8 million people are currently living in poverty.

Pliez said that around 5,000 people are living rough on the streets of Paris.

The Aurore association, formed in 1871, helps up to 20,000 people each year to get back on their feet by providing proper housing, education and healthcare.

Pliez explained that the association, mainly financed by the state and local authorities, used the new poster campaign "to spread awareness and not to gather donations."

"The association did not pay for this advertising campaign. It was offered to us by its designer, photographer and advertising agent Remi Noel. He offered his services for a good cause," says Pliez.

"We want to send a clear message. Exclusion affects all categories of people and living on the street is not dignified. All people have to be aware of is that solidarity is the concern of all." 

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