By Hajer M’tiri
Paris, a city renowned for its glitzy fashion scene, has seen some of France’s best-known designer names subvert in a hard-hitting campaign to support the capital’s estimated 5,000 homeless.
Parisians and visitors alike can’t help but notice the large posters spread across the city that bear a disturbing similarity to famous French fashion houses – but accompanied by poignant scenes of poverty and homelessness.
Yves-Saint Laurent becomes “Yves Without Housing” [Yves without a place to live], Christian Dior becomes “Christian Dehors” [Christian Outside] and Jean Paul Gaultier is rendered as Jean-Paul Galère ” [Jean-Paul in trouble].
As passers-by stop to understand what it is, they are struck by the fact that the posters feature images of homeless men instead of the usual glamor models.
The three specially designed posters feature sadly everyday Parisian scenes: a man asleep on a piece of cardboard in the street; another lying on a subway entrance; a third sleeps on a pile of plastic bags.
“Let’s try to have the elegance to help those who have nothing”, we can read on the 1000 posters distributed throughout Paris.
This eye-catching advertising campaign is how the Aurore Association, a French welfare organization, chose to launch a campaign to shed light on the growing phenomenon of homelessness in the country.
“This advertising campaign aims to raise awareness of the cause of the homeless, so we are using the Dior, Gaultier and Saint Laurent effect to attract people’s attention”, explains Eric Pliez, director of Aurore, addressing at the Anadolu agency.
“We mixed fashion with a social cause to highlight the harsh conditions and exclusion that homeless people experience, but in a dignified and decent way, not pessimistic,” added Pliez.
“We used the names of world famous brand creators to make the invisible visible, in this case the homeless people that we meet every day without really seeing them”, explains Perrine Dequecker, communications director of Aurore. .
In France, an estimated 3.5 million people live in unsanitary housing, including 142,000 homeless people classified as “homeless”. [sans domicile fixe], according to data from the housing advocacy group, the Abbé Pierre Foundation.
Those numbers are up 50% from 10 years ago, according to the foundation’s last report in February of this year.
Families, immigrants, young people and people with mental illness are often vulnerable to homelessness by living in unsafe housing such as tents, caravans, shacks, on the street or even in the woods, often without access to electricity or water.
INSEE, the French national statistics institute, estimates that around 8.8 million people currently live in poverty.
Pliez said about 5,000 people lived on the streets in Paris.
The Aurore association, created in 1871, helps up to 20,000 people every year to get back on their feet by providing them with adequate housing, education and health care.
Pliez explained that the association, mainly funded by the state and local communities, used the new poster campaign “to raise awareness and not to collect donations”.
“The association did not pay for this advertising campaign. It was given to us by its designer, photographer and publicist Rémi Noël. He offered his services for a good cause, ”explains Pliez.
“We want to send a clear message. Exclusion affects all categories of people and living on the streets is not dignified. Everyone must be aware that solidarity is everyone’s business.”
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