'Refutees' pay it forward

Posted at 3:13 PM, Aug 22, 2017

There are all sorts of ways to pay it forward. And for one man who launched his own business he has a deeply personal reason to make a difference. This is the man behind the “Refutee.”

At The Printory the t-shirts represent more than the name printed on the front. Each one represents entrepreneurship, a desire to help others and a love of art. Hussein Al-Baiaty started screen printing t-shirts in the basement of a barbershop during college.

“When I saw it go through this mesh something happened in my mind,” Al- Baiaty recalls. “I was like oh my God the things I can do this. In my mind, I'm like this clothing brand is going to be huge. People are going to know about it and really the whole vision of it was just to create art.”

When he graduated, and couldn’t find a job in architecture, he decided to launch his t-shirt printing business full time.

“It was just a huge learning curve,” Al-Baiaty remembers. “But it was cool because it was sort of this entrepreneurship clashing with art.”

And for Al-Baiaty, that was the key.

“Art literally saved my life,” he says.

When Al-Baiaty was five, he and his family were forced to leave their home in Iraq.

“I was a refugee,” Al-Baiaty says.

Still his father, an artist, found a way to use his gift to help his family through hardship.

“We would go around and he would pick up old tents that would be torn up and just kind of tethered and rolling around in the middle of the desert,” Al-Baiaty remembers. “He would pick them up, bring them back to our tent and he would stretch them over some wood and basically study painting.”

Al-Baiaty says Saudi Arabian officials began requesting his father’s art, and they used those connections to get to the United States. But a new country brought new issues.

“The culture, to speak, and then how to sit in an interview, how to get a job," Al-Baiaty explains.

Overcoming those issues is what inspires Al-Baiaty to give back to people dealing with them now. He does it through what’s called a “Refutee.” Whenever someone buys one of these special shirts, Al-Baiaty donates another brand-new shirt to a refugee in his community. He donates for larger orders too.

“That refugee has been having hand me downs the whole time he's been a refugee if not more,” Al-Baiaty says. “And so, to get something new there's something about that that I believe is it gives it a human sort of dignity you know? It's almost like a gift, a welcoming gift.”

And even though Al-Baiaty’s father is no longer with him, his love for art and for people is, in every shirt he prints.

“He said look man if you don’t have anything to give, no money no whatever, just smile at people,” Al-Baiaty says.  “Just show them that they exist and that you care.”