Fashion for Peace
The 21st September is Peace Day. One month from today millions of people across the globe will come together in their communities to the celebrate peace. Back in the late 1990s actor and filmmaker Jeremy Gilley had the vision to found and ‘institutionalise’ an international day of peace. Since 2007, 4.5million children have been vaccinated against polio in Afghanistan as a result of ceasefires every year on 21st September. It is Jeremy’s ability to inspire people with his story that has been so crucial to the success of him establishing Peace Day.
Naturally to achieve recognition of Peace Day from the powers that be, Jeremy has spent years sharing his story with both World leaders and warring parties in developing countries. But Jeremy and his team at Peace One Day also recognise the huge value in spreading the message to all of us through creative and sporting activities such as film, football, gaming, DJing and dance. This year Hollywood actors including Gael García Bernal, Forest Whitaker, Michael Caine and long-time Peace One Day ambassador Jude Law show their support by taking part in Act for Peace, in which they will each perform a speech relating to peace.
What has all this got to do with The Good Wardrobe I hear you ask? In our last piece, I used to be a duvet cover we explored the significance of the story behind what we wear – that knowing where something comes from and the life it has lived gives us a greater connection to that garment or accessory. The previous post Save the Bees in style focused on the power that fashion has to communicate a message. I wanted to share with you the work of a designer who recognises the importance of both the story and the communicative power of creativity in helping to spread peace.
When fashion designer Cassandra Postema first visited Cambodia last September, she was inspired by the strength of the people who had grown up in a war-torn region, and their determination to overcome adversity. But it was a far cry from her fashion roots. After graduating from London's Central St Martin’s in 1995 it wasn’t long before Cassandra was garnering recognition from the fashion industry and the press. Despite her success, she soon felt restricted and compromised by what was expected of her as a designer. After a move back home to Hong Kong and the launch of a new social enterprise, she once again found herself “hemmed in”, this time by the business model she had spent five years co-creating.
Cassandra was determined to find a way to align her mission to “use fashion to make the world a better place” with her need to earn a living. That is how she found herself in Cambodia in September of last year, and where she spent time with the Cambodian Mine Action Centre (CMAC), a charitable organisation who undertake the often hazardous work of collecting up ammunition from across the country. The scale of the job seems overwhelming - according to the CMAC, whose missions is "Saving lives and Supporting Development for Cambodia", it will take another ten years to clear the country of ammunition.
In May this year Cassandra launched her first collection and Emi & Eve was born. With the help of a skilled Cambodian artisan family, Cassandra upcycles bullets, mine covers and bomb casings into “beautiful shiny symbols of friendship and peace”. These accessories certainly are a team effort – weavers from the Saori Welfare Centre (set up on the coast of Thailand to create jobs after the 2004 Tsunami ravaged the area) provide the colourful hand-woven cloth, whilst disabled and / or illiterate seamstresses from China stitch together Cassandra’s creations. She explains:
“I have found that economic empowerment is the most efficient way to help others. The skilled artisans I work with are among the hardest working people that I know. They are an inspiration to me by overcoming adversity with determination and creativity...
We roam remote and not so remote areas of Asia to find artisans who recycle, reclaim and create crafts that deserve to be seen, not only because of their beauty, but because of their stories of overcoming."
It is this story allied with stylish design and attention to detail that Emi & Eve are hoping we will connect with. They are currently crowd-funding via Indiegogo so that their collection can go into production, and we have until 12th September to pledge our support. The rewards on offer include The 'Soaring Bird' pendant (header image) for US$35, the 'Iris' clutch (above) for US$110 and the 'Maxima' mini clutch (bottom) which is made entirely from one bomb casing for US$250.
As founder of Peace One Day, I asked Jeremy Gilley what he thought about this project and the work of like-minded artisans and designers who use their imagination to promote peace:
“It’s amazing to see how artists across Asia use different shapes and materials to show their support for Peace Day on 21 September. What better way to spread peace than by turning bomb casings into beautiful objects of art?”
High praise indeed and I couldn't agree more.
To find out more and to watch Cassandra’s two minute video pitch or 'the making of the Peace bracelet’ visit Emi & Eve's page on Indiegogo. (It’s worth noting that payment is via PayPal so if you are not US based it will convert the price for you. Shipping is included.)
To learn more about Peace Day and to hear how you can get involved visit www.peaceoneday.org. I highly recommend you watch Jeremy Gilley’s documentary The Day After Peace which charts his journey to found Peace Day. It will be screened as part of The Little Big Peace Event, a South London festival I co-organise that is inspired by Peace One Day.