Fashion can be used as a way to express yourself. For Neighbors Apparel, it's a chance to become the neighbor of a refugee living in Akron.

Tessa Reeves wanted to do more with her fashion degree from Kent State University. She wanted to make a difference in the community -- and that's exactly what she's doing.

Reeves teamed up with the non-profit group Urban Vision to help create employment for refugees in the North Hill area and to bring cultures together with fashion.

"What I don't want to do is create pity. We're not doing this because 'Oh, they need us," said Reeves. "We're doing this to celebrate the fact that we have these survivors living alongside us as neighbors."

women s pocket tee grande

Neighbors Apparel focuses on bringing two cultures together by blending traditional fabric with American design. 

"One thing our people really like is our Ohio Tee," said Reeves. "Basically, we take the fabric from Thailand and we cut out a shape of Ohio and then paste it on a t-shirt. That's my favorite product because I think it tells our story the best." 

Among those working at Neighbors Apparel: Head seamstress Ka Naw, a Karen refugee woman from Burma, and Chandra Rai, a Bhutanese refugee.

"There's lots of people who want to come to America, but they don't get a chance to be here due to economic problems," said Rai. "We are lucky that we get a chance to be here in America and I'm happy to be here." 

In about six months, five local retailers have picked up the clothing/accessory line -- including the Market Path at Highland Square and the NOTO Boutique in Downtown Akron. Reeves hopes it's just the beginning.

Source: Neighbors Apparel

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