The LOVE bracelet is the latest product from African lifestyle brand, LIFELine, in collaboration with The Supply Change. This beaded beauty is aimed at connecting communities around the globe, raising money for the Maasai women who make them, and impacting all who wear them through the art of love. We speak to the mastermind behind the #Loveisproject, Chrissie Lam, to find out how to spread the love.
1. Can you explain the #LoveIsProject to us?
I work with artisans in developing countries, connecting them to market access and creating collaboration products. For over 12 years, I worked as a concept designer in the fashion industry before leaving my corporate job to pursue and merge my passion for design and development.
For the past 2.5 years, I’ve lived a nomadic existence out of a suitcase. Adventures keep me energised and centred. I’ve travelled around the world and back again connecting people and organisations, creating beautiful and impactful relationships and products.
Last year in Kenya, I created message bracelets with the Maasai tribe for CTC International, ctcinternational.org, a non-profit organisation that works to empower communities around Nairobi. Money from bracelet sales go to help fund education, environmental and health initiatives.
This summer, through my self-funded travels to 18 countries in 2 months, I met 127 people from 48 nationalities. From Siberia, Russia and the Gobi Desert of Mongolia to Israel and Palestine, I photographed people I met along the way wearing my LOVEbracelet and had them tell me what #loveis. I found that even in the remotest places on earth and the most volatile regions, you can find love everywhere and in everyone.
Inspired by people’s responses to the project, I believe in this project’s potential to aid in conflict resolution, increasing empathy and understanding for others. By leaning into our interconnectedness, breaking free of fear, and sharing love.
One of my favorite quotes from my journey is from Julia Korneychuk of Northern Siberia. For her, #loveis proportional to your will. It’s an axiom. This resonates with me as I believe the stronger the will, the bigger the love, so I’m putting that theory to test here.
2. What was the impetus behind the initiative? Where is the love?
It’s something to ponder with the current state of events in the world. Malaysian Airlines was shot down over the Ukraine the day I was flying over Russia and the outbreak of Ebola epidemic had just begun. As I made my way down towards the Middle East, war broke out in Israel and Gaza, and ISIS was beheading friends of friends in Syria and Iraq. It was easy to forget that love exists. It was depressing to read the news and tiring to hear the negativity and evil. I needed to find something positive to focus on. This project was a distraction as well as a search for love to restore my faith in humanity. Voicing the unheard opinions of the moderate majority instead of the minority extremists who fight for the spotlight and airtime. I found grace, gratitude and grief in many answers.
Your contribution not only helps CTC International continue to empower communities in Kenya through job creation, but also helps love conquer hate around the world.
Love is derived of the same energy as hate. The only difference is it has a positive charge, instead of a negative one, similar to a battery. The opposite of love is apathy. And to do nothing, allows fertile ground for hate to grow.
3. You’re based in Austin, Texas. How did a project based in Africa come about?
I founded The Supply Change, a consultancy that connects artisan groups to market access as well as creates products for brand collaborations. One of the organisations I work with is CTC international, based in Austin, Texas. Zane Wilemon, the Director, founded CTC in 2000 while he was volunteering abroad. I was in Kenya in 2013 creating products for them. One of the products being the message bracelets.
4. What made Maasai jewellery the medium of choice for the project?
CTC partners with a community of Maasai and I was brought on to create new products with them.
5. Can you tell us a bit more about the community of Maasai mums who are making the pieces?
They are based in the Ngong Hills in the bush outside of Nairobi, Kenya. They are an incredible group of women. The Maasai are a Nilotic ethnic group of semi-nomadic people inhabiting southern Kenya and northern Tanzania. The LOVE Bracelet is made by LIFE Line’s Maasai Mums in their traditional beadwork, creating sustainable income and empowering women to provide for their families through entrepreneurial opportunities. Beaded with red to represent bravery, strength, and unity among the Maasai, the LOVE Bracelet connects the maker and the wearer around the world with a common purpose.
6. Crowd funding is an exciting way for new businesses and non-profits to get off the ground: what has your experience been of raising money this way?
It’s the first time CTC International and The Supply Change have used this medium. It’s been incredibly successful and we’ve raised 5 times our goal in 3 weeks. It’s an engaging way to reach our audience and share the story while building buzz and driving sales for the LOVE bracelets.
7. You’ve said that “The products we wear reflect the choices we make: we hold the power to shift the fashion and lifestyle industry.” How do you envisage this change happening?
The quote above is Zane Wilemon of CTC Int. which also echoes my sentiments as well. More love, more empathy. Change the supply chain, through humanising connections….with the help of technology.
8. Who designs the bracelets? And what were the parameters for its design?
I designed and conceptualized the bracelets with the Maasai, creating a meaningful product, simple enough to scale and reproduce at large quantities.
9. You’ve done quite a bit of travelling: can you tell us a bit about this, and how it helped to shape the #loveisproject?
I LOVE travelling and have been doing so all my life. Currently the total stands at 97 countries now! Travelling opens your eyes, makes you excited and feel like a little kid again, experiencing and learning everything for the first time. Just do it! It helps break down barriers and misconceptions about foreign cultures, countries and people. It makes me feel alive. Everyone I’ve met on my travels has inspired me. Many lifelong friendships have started by way of a random chance meeting in a country. Open your heart, open your mind. One LOVE bracelet has connected hundreds of people around the world…the thread through this never-ending love story. What will happen when tens of thousands of these bracelets are in the hands of people around the world…think of the exponential!
10. This is a collaboration between LifeLINE and The Supply Chain: how did it come about?
I’ve consulted with CTC International/LIFEline since 2012, working on creating products for their partnership with Whole Foods. I’ve been good friends with the founder, Zane Wilemon, since my sister introduced us in 2010. We inspire and push each other personally, professional and spiritually. Love is shared purpose and achieving things together that you never thought were possible.
11. How does the LOVE Bracelet help aid female empowerment?
By purchasing a handmade LOVE bracelet, you help to create jobs in Kenya for over 400 Maasai women, sustainably economically empowering each of them along with their families. The LOVE Bracelet is made in Kenya from local materials by LIFE Line’s Maasai Mums with traditional beadwork, and creates sustainable income while empowering women to provide for their families through entrepreneurial opportunities. Since 2008 LIFE Line has been transforming an entire community and employing over 400 women in communities across the Rift Valley in Kenya through the production of its products.
12. Where can we get our hands on one of the bracelets?