Real­ly Ugly Sweater

Exhibited by
Tom Moons, Head of Partnerships, SOS Children's Villages Belgium
September 13, 2018
Medium of Communication
Press, radio, social media
Target Audience
Type of Charity
Children, youth and family
Country of Origin
Date of first appearance
December 2017

SOFII’s view

In an innovative twist, SOS Children’s Villages in Belgium and their agency Gents reimagined the ugly Christmas sweater by recreating a Syrian refugee camp. It’s bold and powerful as it hammers home the reality faced by so many children in Syria whilst also sticking to a festive theme. The sweater deservedly sold out and the idea went viral. A simple concept done brilliantly.

Summary / objectives

Gents, an independent boutique agency powered by a team of fearless and open-minded digital natives, wanted to help raise awareness and funds for the humanitarian work of SOS Children’s Villages in war-struck Syria during Christmas - the most wonderful time of the year. 

They decided to use the Christmas tradition of wearing an ugly sweater and produce a Really Ugly Sweater.


SOS Children’s Villages has been supporting the needs in Syria for the past 30 years. Since the civil war in 2011 the organisation has reinforced the support to this region even more. Today about 200 children that are out on their own, can find a new home in one of the two children’s villages in Damascus. In Tartous and Aleppo SOS Children’s Villages provides temporary shelter to more than 300 unaccompanied children, with the purpose to reunite them with their families as soon as possible. Another 2,500 children can go to the SOS Children’s spaces during the day, where they can play, learn and grow in safety.

To bring this ugly issue to people’s attention Gents created the Really Ugly Sweater. The first ugly Christmas sweater that depicts a REALLY ugly truth. Because some people don’t wear ugly things during Christmas, they experience them. Day after day.

This Really Ugly Sweater might look like any other ugly Christmas sweater. But when you look a little closer, you’ll see that this one is really ugly. The normally oh-so-peaceful nativity scene becomes a tent in a refugee camp and jingle bells turn into jingle…bombs. An ugly but very real scene for all those struggling to survive in Syria.

The Really Ugly Sweater was sold through a dedicated webshop, turning a warm Christmas tradition into a smart awareness and fundraising tool.

By donating all proceeds to SOS Children’s Villages, Gents ensured a truly merry Christmas. One ugly sweater at a time.


The Really Ugly Sweater became the talk of the town, turning the festive tradition of ugly Christmas sweaters into an ‘ugly’ conversation starter.

All stocks of the Really Ugly Sweater sold out raising € 10,200 in funding and much more in media coverage.

All the major news websites such as VRT NWS, HLN and DeMorgen picked up the campaign.

Belgium’s most popular Instagrammers Sean Dhondt, An Lemmens, Triggerfinger and Bram Willems posted selfies wearing the Really Ugly Sweater.

Studio Brussel, one of Belgium’s biggest radio stations, invited us to tell our story on air, generating massive word of mouth.