After designing bags for Hillary and Oprah, artist turns to Syrian refugees

His bags are also worn by many celebrities, including Jane Fonda, Yfke Sturm, Jessica Mendels, Leontien van Moorsel, Edsilia Rombeley

Nabila Pathan
Nabila Pathan - Special to Al Arabiya English
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Having taken the Dutch fashion industry by storm and designed hands bags for global names like Hillary Clinton and Oprah Winfrey, designer Omar Muni is now turning his attention to helping refugees in a country that welcomed him as a refugee when he was 9 years old.

Omar hopes that the launch of his new foundation - The Dutch Tulip, will help to dispel the negative image surrounding refugees and vice versa, at a time when anti-immigration sentiments are on the rise across Europe.

The Dutch Tulip launched this month with positive coverage across social media and Dutch media, garnering support from community groups, politicians, entrepreneurs and employment agencies.

In 2015, nearly 60,000 refugees arrived into the Netherlands during the historic migration into Europe, particularly from Syria.

Omar's foundation strives to connect refugees with potential employers through accessible work placements. Through the initiative, the foundation hopes to reduce the threshold between refugees and Dutch society, offering courses that support the integration process, along the way.

In sharing his own experience as a refugee he believes that majority of refugees want nothing more than to contribute to development of their host country.

Having fled as nine-year-old boy from civil war in Somalia, he has overcome the odds to create a leading fashion business in the Netherlands. "I really want to help people," he explains as he talks to Al Arabiya English about using his success to create opportunities for refugees. He firmly believes "the only thing you need is a dream," as a starting point.

"I remember I came to Holland in the winter and I was only wearing a football shirt. Right before landing I saw all the lights from the airport. This was the first time I saw so many lights. That brought hope for me. Hope for a better future."

At school, he discovered a passion for fashion and craftsmanship.

He went to fashion school and worked hard to develop his talents. Shortly after, Omar made his first handbags, which he sold to the girls in his fashion class. That spurred him on to start his own company, Omar Munie Clothing.

"The things that helped me the most were a passion for fashion, belief in myself, having patience to be persistent, my religion and the people that helped me along the way."

From a startup that originated in his mom’s kitchen has now expanded to an impressive workshop on Binckhorst Avenue in The Hague. Eight years after founding his company, it has its own Flagship Store on the Noordeinde in The Hague. He has designed handbags for the City of The Hague, KLM, Schiphol Airport, and Training Institute De Baak.

His bags are also worn by many celebrities, including Jane Fonda, Yfke Sturm, Jessica Mendels, Leontien van Moorsel, Edsilia Rombeley, Caroline Tensen, Kim Feenstra, Inge de Bruijn, Quinty Trustfull, Jeroen Pauw, Hint, Paul Witteman, and Fatima Moreira de Melo.

Having already sold his bags to Macy's, one of America's largest department stores, he wants to continue his international success: "I want to go global in the next five years. For me, the sky's the limits."

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