Maria Igwebuike

Maria Igwebuike

As a 27-year-old lingerie designer based in Suffolk, I have overcome significant adversity to pursue my passion.

Originally from Nigeria, I arrived in the UK as an asylum seeker at just 11 years old. Despite the challenges of adjusting to a new country, I found solace in fashion from a young age, spending my free time sketching designs, sewing, and upcycling second-hand clothing.

My unwavering determination drove me to study Fashion Design at Suffolk New College, followed by specialising in Lingerie Pattern Cutting course at the prestigious London College of Fashion. Drawing inspiration from the beauty of nature, my overflowing emotions, and everyday romance, I meticulously combine garment construction and pattern-making techniques to create flattering, timeless lingerie silhouettes.

What makes my story particularly compelling is my ability to channel my experiences as an asylum seeker into fuel for my entrepreneurial spirit.

Maria Callisto is a brand that focuses on sustainable bridal lingerie and loungewear using reclaimed fabrics and old wedding dresses. I started Trinity Project in 2021 which is part of Maria Callisto. Trinity project is a subsidiary of Maria Callisto that aims to be an enterprise that supports individuals (especially women) from refugee and disadvantaged backgrounds by hiring them and being a point of entry into the fashion industry. Beyond providing job opportunities, we hope to enable our target group to build some skills (like pattern cutting) and get a consistent income to further integrate into society and support their families.

Trinity project has previously focused on normalising menstrual health and highlighting period poverty in refugees community, We were able to donate pads, knickers, period products and hygiene products to thirty women in Bekaa Valley Lebanon, read more here. Moving forward we aim to focus on training and employing refugee women in textile manufacturing and fashion design tied to sustainable fashion.

What makes my story particularly compelling is my ability to channel my experiences as an asylum seeker into fuel for my entrepreneurial spirit.

The employment rate among asylum migrants is 51%, compared with 73% for the UK-born. Adjusting for socio-demographic characteristics (for example, age, gender, education, ethnicity, and location of residence). Among those who are in employment, asylum migrants are more likely to be in self- employment than the UK-born and other migrants. In total, 21% of asylum migrants in employment are self-employed compared to 14% of UK-born. The analysis adjusting for socio-demographic characteristics suggests that asylum migrants in employment are 8 percentage points more likely to be in self-employment than the UK-born.

Trinity project will focus specifically on training and employing refugee women in textile manufacturing and fashion design tied to sustainable fashion. Trinity project encourages the people we work with to get the chance to start afresh and bring their own dreams to life with sustainable awareness in the fashion industry and to feel integrated in the community to also support themselves and other marginalized groups.

I know the need for normality in these communities as I have experienced it as well. Many of the immigrant women I have met come from a skilled background, either as seamstresses, website developers and other skilled professions prior to entering the UK. However, many are obliged to compromise by taking jobs in industries which require nothing close to their skill sets, either due to language barriers or their specific status from the home office or their family lives. I have a partnership with Suffolk Refugee support sewing groups where the women can make extra income.

The importance of Trinity projects specifically targets refugee women and addresses the unique barriers they face in accessing employment and achieving economic self-sufficiency in the UK.

Pioneer 20 2024 - Top 20 refugee women in the EU

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