As you probably remember, Emma Watson has set herself the challenge of wearing only eco-friendly and sustainable outfits during the press tour for her new Disney blockbuster Beauty and the Beast. I loved the idea and was stunned to learn the earrings she wore for an appearance on The Ellen Show were made from recycled bombs. I did a little digging and today, I am really happy to introduce you the person behind it all – the founder Elizabeth Suda. She left her corporate job at Coach, Inc. to travel around the world. She landed in Laos, consulting for a social enterprise company and there, she made an amazing discovery that inspired her to start an impact-based business of her own.. Article22.
How did you come up with the idea?
I was living in Laos on an “adventure-quest” (as I call it) to understand more about the traditional crafts of hand weaving and natural dying. After working at Coach for two years and seeing how powerful the consumer fashion market is, I wondered what if fashion could do good as well as making people look good. I worked with Swiss NGO Helvetas on a textile project in a rural village in northern Laos. There I saw artisans making spoons… from US bombs dropped during the Vietnam War. I was shocked because I had no idea that Laos was involved in that conflict. But what was more shocking – 80 million bombs (that’s 30% of what was dropped) did not detonate on impact. I was very moved because I met people who were not even born yet living and farming on contaminated land and yet they smiled, welcomed me into their homes, and decided they wanted to do something with the metal to use it and create a useful soup spoon that they could sell to feed their neighbors.
Immediately I thought – we need to partner to create a sustainable business selling a bracelet that would tell their story and also show that history does not end with a date – that the legacy of war has a long lasting impact on civilians in peacetime. I also wanted to support the incredible work of Mines Advisory Group and donate through each sale to help clear contaminated land. To give you a sense of the contamination, we helped MAG cleared an astounding 400 unexploded bombs from the farmland of an artisan family – Sithone and Lai Manyvong.
Where did the name Article22 come from?
Universal Declaration of Human Rights. After WWII, Eleanor Roosevelt led the commission on human rights to create this document which would help avoid the atrocities from happening again. I love article 22 because it is all about a concerted effort among nations and individuals to ensure everyone’s right to social, economic, and cultural security – and – the free development of personality.
How does the creative process look like? Where do you get your inspiration?
Great question. I get inspriation from everywhere. From the artisans, from the story itself. Their optimistic approach is all about the future. I have heard people say “the past is the past” we have to move on. Our best and longest selling storytelling arrow collection is all about pointing toward the future without forgetting the past ($55-85).
Our newer birthstone collection is finished with 14K gold bezel and chain ($150-290) is about the idea that the artisans transform something so negative into something positive and behind that is the realization that we all have our own transformation stories, in fact WE are transformation stories!
Our newest Laos Inspired collection is really exciting for us because it is all about design and inspired by the shapes, temple architecture and gold foiling, and colors of the lush green jungle and rice fields of Laos. The “dome” shape is central to the new collection – it is a shape inspired by the serenity and calm of temples where you can find Buddha statues sitting in dome shaped niches (pic below of Wat Sisaket). And of course, domes are central in western iconography in places of peace and worship.
How did your earrings end up on Emma Watson?
Amazing, right?! Emma has been a heroine of ours. Her talent is matched by her bold activism. When the team (Eco-Age and Emma’s Stylist, Rebecca Corbin Murray) helping her prepare for her Beauty and the Beast @the_press_tour contacted us, they asked us many very good questions about our supply chain and how and why we define ourselves as “sustainable”. We answered that the pieces we make fit our definition of sustainablility as the balance of culture, society, environment, and economics: our artisan partners employ their traditional craft from the beauty of their own kilns situated in their gardens, upcycling war debris and other scrap according to fair trade business standards. After reading through our responses, Emma’s team approved our brand and requested our newest styles!
But it was drama! Because these were our new collection and we only had one or two of each piece. And they were being shown at a tradeshow through Wednesday night and Emma’s team needed them by the Monday. There was no way we could get them to Rebecca Corbin Murray’s team in time. So, we did something bold… we put our Super-Intern Emily on a flight to London and the pieces were delivered just in time. We knew there was a chance that the pieces we sent might not work with Emma’s looks – we knew we were taking a risk. But then we were ELATED to hear her talk about ARTICLE22 on The Ellen Show!
Why do you think it’s important that people pay attention to how and by whom are the goods we consume made?
Everything is connected. Where and how we source raw materials and who makes the goods we wear and in what environmental and social conditions – these questions matter because I think that many of us agree on the fundamentals of human rights. But we live in such a large and newly interconnecte world that we become disconnected from the origin of the things we eat, wear, and use. To be perfect is impossible, but to be aware and make little efforts to continuously learn and inquire is possible. Our team at ARTICLE22, in our own small way, works every day to match up with those customers on that quest to buy both beautiful and meaningful gifts. We strive to have our objects reflect our fundamental beliefs.
ARTICLE22 is a designer brand of hand crafted jewelry and home accessories. Each piece tells a powerful story of transformation and also contributes towards de-mining the land in Laos to make it safe to inhabit. With a name and brand ethos inspired by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Article22’s mission with Peacebomb is to create beautiful and meaningful jewellery that supports traditional artisans and reclaims land in Laos, the most heavily bombarded country in history per capita. The brand has been recognized by global consumers and press as pioneering the transformation of weapons into jewelry and the tangible value of fashion that does good.
Photo: Article 22