Dubai fashion brand launches campaign calling for more empathy and less discrimination

Exhale is asking for people to (metaphorically) come together and be inclusive during these times

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During what is a difficult time for people around the globe, a local streetwear brand is sending a message of inclusivity and positivity.

Dubai label exhale has launched a campaign titled Compassion is Contagious in an effort to remind people of the power of unity and their impact on the community in the wake of Covid-19. The apparel brand, which is known for promoting mental health awareness, has teamed up with Sukoun identity studio and photographer Waleed Shah to release the a campaign featuring people of all nationalities wearing face masks with the positive message "compassion is contagious" on them.

“The idea came about one day when we were all sitting together talking about the virus, and the conversation went to the discrimination across the world – towards the country where it originated from, or how it was spreading. We wanted to send a message that compassion towards our fellow human beings is far more contagious than a virus is,” says Mohammed Abualqumssan, creative director at Sukounidentity studio.

“The aim is to highlight and emphasise that we are currently dealing and adapting to all that is going on in the world as a collective. We are nobody to judge, to discriminate, seclude or behave in any way that is not human," adds Nawal El Masri, founder and creative director of exhale. “We are experiencing life as a single unit, no matter our ethnicity, culture or background. It’s time to tap into basic human elements and come together during a challenging time.”

While the campaign features people wearing facemasks, it's important to note that it is not promotional in nature, and not intended to sell any products. The face masks featured in the photos are not of medical grade or for sale – they are for symbolic purposes alone.

"Facemasks have been an international symbol of the coronavirus pandemic," says Waleed Shah, the photographer who shot the campaign, and is famous for for his Rock Your Ugly photo series that garnered international acclaim.

“Let’s be honest – they can seem scary. But we wanted to take this symbol and paint a positive messages on them to show that, even though we are wearing them, we can all have compassion for one another.” According to the photographer, models have been shot individually but are all sharing the same message -  another way to portray that people do not have to physically come together to be united.

El Masri is encouraging people to post pictures of themselves online with a pledge to be more compassionate towards those around them during this time, while also being grateful for everything they have. She also lists some ways people can come together (metaphorically) to help others.

“Support one another, whether it is spiritually, mentally or creatively. Be inclusive. Share your experiences, features and emotions – being vulnerable can help someone on the other end heal their wounds. Listen more than you speak – you don’t always need to find a solution. Finally, breathe together. Within hardship comes ease,” she says.