The American artist talks to MOJEH about enlisting the likes of Alicia Vikander and Carla Bruni for his charity project
American artist Johny Dar has used his artistic expression to unite communities since the launch of his eponymous brand in 1999. His creative work – which includes fine art, fashion and music – is hailed as the vanguard of artistic innovation today, and has attracted international acclaim across a wide range of industries and has garnered huge celebrity support. Stirred by the struggles of refugees in the Middle East and beyond, Dar called upon celebrity friends to donate their jeans to be reimagined and painted by him under the cause ‘Jeans For Refugees’. The pieces are exhibited and sold with funds donated to the International Rescue Committee, an aid program founded in 1933 by Albert Einsteen.
MOJEH speaks to Dar about using art and celeb culture for the greater good.
MOJEH: What moved you to use your talent for the purpose of giving back?
Johny Dar: There is no greater gift than your presence and time. Art is my tool to be free. It has given me that, and naturally I want to share that with others.
M: Tell us about the Jeans For Refugees journey, what inspired the idea?
JD: I felt so unable to help out and make a difference when millions of people lost their homes. When I heard about their struggle and children dying, it was paralysing – but it felt utterly inhumane to just sit there and watch it all happen without doing anything about it.
M: Over 100 celebrities have donated their jeans including Alicia Vikander, Amber Valletta and Carla Bruni. How did you garner such incredible support from the celebrity community?
JD: The first step is always the hardest step. Luckily I had personal connections that paved the way for the rest to come on board and join the cause. Still, it wasn’t easy as some really close friends chose to not be part of it, even though I was convinced they would give up an old pair of jeans – but you would be surprised, and it opened my eyes to the fact that the world is only this way because some of us choose to hold back when we can actually give.
M: The International Rescue Committee is at work in over 40 countries helping people to survive and reclaim control of their future. Why did you choose the IRC in particular?
JD: We researched many, and the International Rescue Committee stood out as being truly global, and with many varied programmes to support refugees all around the world. We visited some of their programmes in Jordan, and were really touched to see personally how important and impactful their work is.
M: What has been the highlight of the project so far?
JD: So many highlights! In particular the scope of its impact. I had people calling from Africa, inspired after watching the CNN feature on a broken TV, wanting me to help with their project. This was a very real and genuine moment and made me realise how much help is needed in the world today, now more than ever.
M: How can MOJEH readers get involved?
JD: They can buy a pair of jeans online at JeansForRefugees.com; we do still have jeans and are welcoming offers through our website and even on social media. They can also help simply by spreading the word. Our philosophy is that everyone is capable of making change in some way, no matter what their circumstances are, even if it’s just following and sharing the project through social media.
(Follow Johny Dar’s project on Instagram @jeans.for.refugees)
M: How have you kept your creative spirit alive during the current period of social distancing and lockdown?
JD: I am the guy who waits for everyone to go to sleep and then gets really busy. Therefore lockdown has worked really well for me creatively – I can be creative 24/7 and I have been catching up with projects that have been on hold for years. So as the world slows down, I found my world speeding up to its max and so much has been achieved. As a result I’m looking at a lot of new releases.
M: What has been your most eye-opening moment of isolation?
JD: It doesn’t matter how rich, successful or famous you are, all you’ve really got is your body and your state of mind. If you are not at peace internally and healthy and happy being in your body, then you are essentially in lockdown and self-isolation regardless of your external situation. It is of such importance to have a healthy community; I was always interested in showing how we are all connected and how the world is one… and the current crisis proved this concept to me and I believe to many others too.
Support the Jeans For refugees cause through JeansForRefugees.com