Sometimes we find inspiration in the most unexpected places. It's usually the little things - a five minute chat with a stranger, an beautiful piece of art, an obnoxiously catchy song - that encourage us to test the boundaries, take a risk, and do something differently. Doug and Chris Akin, founders of The Base Project, are perfect examples of the power of unexpected inspiration. In this case, their inspiration was a bracelet.
The duo, who was looking to start a fashion-based social enterprise, tested various products. But what resonated most with friends and family wasn't these prototypes. It was Chris' upcycled bracelet from Namibia. So the pair went on a journey to Africa to find out who they could work with to make these bracelets and how they could help the local communities there. Through this journey they discovered the Himba and Herero tribes, and found that they could locally source recycled water pipes (which would otherwise be discarded) in this region, and the rest is history.
We sat down with Chris, who walked us through the process of transforming a piece of water pipe into a beautiful bracelet. Of course, it isn't as easy as you'd think.
Artisans search for water pipes, which are found anywhere from landfills and garbage cans to the side of the road. These are upcycled into bracelets. (Pictured here is a photo of co-founder Chris looking for water pipes.)
Artisans sand and finish the edges and back of each bracelet. The back of each bracelet has a message: "Hand carved by local artisans in Namibia, Africa using upcycled materials. See your impact in their local community."
Though the above water pipe bracelets are The Base Project's signature pieces, they have expanded their product selection to include brass bracelets that are designed by the artisans and crafted in NY (royalties from sales of these bracelets are given back to the artisans for their designs). Even more exciting, The Base Project is in its initial stages of expanding to Togo and the Middle East, and beginning to work with a new tribe, the San Tribe, in Namibia. Like their current model, they aim to locally source and upcycle as much as possible. With the San Tribe this will include crafting beads from ostrich eggshells. In Togo, beads will be made out of recycled vinyl. And in the Middle East, women will use their traditional craft to make date pits (yes, like the ones you eat) into jewelry. All this is part of The Base Project's goal to foster community development abroad and help you #WearYourImpact.
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