Social Fabric – a wonderful way to integrate refugees in Zurich

Deborah is Italian and lives in Zurich. She tells about Social Fabric, a Swiss organization that created a wonderful project to help refugees integrate in the Swiss society.


social-fabric3Despite having always lived in Europe, I went through the difficulties linked to the need of conforming to and understanding the rules of my new host country (including a different language). Yet, the whole experience of moving abroad and the little traumas it entails, have given me the opportunity to grow up, to change my “small-town mentality” and to look differently at people around me, at the diversity around me. My moving abroad is nothing compared to all those people (refugees or not), who leave their native countries to find better living conditions. I can understand their feelings, because after all it was the same for me: I moved to find better living conditions for my family and myself. Still, I did not run away from a war-torn place and I took an airplane to go to my new destination. I did not have to walk for kilometers or force myself onto a fragile boat, hoping not to sink in the Mediterranean sea, as it happens to so many people today.

So, why not to give them a chance?

The same happened to our Italian ancestors, when they moved to America looking for and hoping in a better future. The history repeats itself, but we forget the past too quickly and easily.

The current situation is certainly difficult to handle and Europe is having a lot of trouble in managing it. It is my opinion that many of the host countries lack integration programs (I feel this is especially true in Italy): A path of studies, activities, meetings that will help the new immigrants integrate their new communities, whose rules and habits they do not master.

In Switzerland there are different mandatory integration programs for citizens coming from specific countries. Among these, one provided by Social Fabric grabbed my attention. Social Fabric is a community based organization, whose first and main aim is to support the employment in the textile sector with a small ecological and social footprint. Since 2015, they work with refugees providing sewing classes with the help of volunteers.

The goal is to give people the opportunity to improve the language, to get in touch with citizens from other countries, to integrate into Swiss society and build a life here in Switzerland; through the project they learn a new job and acquire the tools to build their own business in Switzerland or in their countries of origin.

social-fabric2As Heather (founder of Social Fabric) says in this video, it is difficult for people with a refugee background to find a job. At Social Fabric, refugees spend hours having fun, meeting other people but also learning and working. Clothes and textiles designed by the immigrants are sold through the website of the organization; 20% of the revenues goes to the person who designed the model, the remaining 80% goes to the organization to keep the project running.

On the Social Fabric website you can buy, support fundraising campaigns and donate at any time. In collaboration with AOZ (an institution for social assistance to refugees), Social Fabric started a process to help some of the refugees have a paid job at the organization.

A success story certainly comes from Cisse Sekou, a 26-years-old man from Ivory Cost. He has been working as a tailor since the age of 11 and he is very passionate about drawing and sewing clothes. However, he needed technical training, because being a tailor in Switzerland is different from being a tailor in Ivory Cost. As Cisse tells in this video, here in Switzerland tailors work with patterns and pins, while back in Africa there is no time to use these kinds of “accessories” and tailors have it all in their head. Thanks to a fundraising campaign, Social Fabric was able to collect enough money to pay a 7-months internship for Cisse, thus giving him a great opportunity to improve his skills and help him in his integration process.

I am not directly involved with this organization because I do not have tailoring skills to offer, but I found their way to integrate refugees a very original idea!

If you want to have more information, be involved, buy clothes or make a donation, you can go to:


Deborah Patroncini
November 2016