African asylum seekers walk the runway at international menswear event Pitti Immagine Uomo

Story highlights

  • Three African asylum seekers were cast as runway models in a fashion show at Pitti Immagine Uomo 89
  • Pitti Immagine Uomo 89 is an international menswear fair

(CNN)Three African asylum seekers took to the runway this week at Pitti Immagine Uomo 89, an international menswear fair held in Florence, Italy, during a runway show designed to spotlight both African fashion talent and migrant issues faced by the continent.

As part of "Generation Africa" -- a collaboration between Fondazione Pitti Discovery and ITC Ethical Fashion Initiative -- a fashion show, held on Thursday January 14, featured the Autumn/Winter 2016 collections of four African-designed fashion brands: AKJP, Lukhanyo Mdingi x Nicholas Coutts, Ikiré Jones and U.mi-1.
The brands were the second group of African-designed menswear labels selected and promoted at Pitti by ITC Ethical Fashion Initiative as part of its African Designer Program. The first group showcased their collections during the 88th edition of Pitti Uomo in June 2015.
This time the Ethical Fashion Initiative partnered with Lai-momo, an Italian organization working with migrants, to cast three asylum seekers to participate as paid models, alongside other professional models in the show.
According to Lai-momo, the men selected to participate in a fashion shoot and the runway show are aged between 19-27 years old and from Mali and Gambia. Ahead of their fashion debuts they received professional modeling training.
Under the slogan of, "Not charity, just work." The Ethical Fashion Initiative advocates for a fairer global fashion industry by arming people with the skills to allow them to join fashion's value chain.
Simone Cipriani, Head of the Ethical Fashion Initiative said after the show on Thursday: "Africa is one of today's creative poles and this show proves that African designers speak about art, life and innovation. At the same time, we are in an age in which many Africans come to Europe as migrants. We believe in a program that enables them to work in the value chain of fashion."