How brave and genuine you have to be to pick up the pieces left behind and give them new life and set them to new journeys?
Yes, very brave and genuine, totally open minded and full of love, for life, for others, for the world.
That is how I see the people in Cambodia who make their living producing accessories and jewellery out of old tyres, cement bags and bullet cases.
Why would one do that with junk? Can they just find the normal job? Actually, no. And actually, why?
They are the artisans with vision and creative mind and hands. And the beautiful perspective to recycle and to help the environment as well as their families.
But, let’s start from the beginning.
I was browsing the Old Spitafields Market in London, UK and the elephant caught my attention. Then the camel and then the whole stand!
Soon, I was impressed with the whole idea of recycling old cement bags into beautiful backpacks, or inner tyres to backpacks or very modern bags and the most interesting thing to make the gorgeous jewellery out of bullet cases. And yes, I simply had to get involved.
And here it is. My interview with Mariavittoria Scala and Alessia di Marcantonio, two Italian friends, each living in London for many years with the only wish to bring awareness to ethical and fair trade, sustainable living and fair labour for everyone. And they are doing it through their brand Lost in Samsara.
And a few photos to show you the beauties that impressed me so much.
Why did you decided to study human rights?
I was always passionate about social and political issues. Back in Italy, I have taken a degree in Political Science and my final dissertation was about corporations and workers’ rights in the developing countries. After that I have decided to study human rights with the International Red Cross, linked especially to situations of war and natural disaster.
In 2007 I came to London as it hosts the major charities and NGOs. After improving my English I volunteered for IANSA and Friends of the Earth, while having another job. In 2015, together with my friend Alessia, we decided to start our own project to raise awareness about social injustice and support disadvantaged communities and decided to found Lost in Samsara.
How did you end up in Cambodia?
Cambodia is one of the poorest countries in the world and we wanted to do some work there. Through the World Fair Trade Organisation website we got in contact with some producers groups. We went to visit them and we have been working together since.
Did you always wanted to make accessories and jewellery?
We wanted Lost in Samsara to be the place where people could find contemporary and modern wares that would respect people and the planet. We thought that accessories and jewellery would have been the perfect match. We saw our products as messengers of the story behind, the story of the artisans who make them but also, more in general, of a fairer world.
How did you come up with the idea to make them from cement bags or old tyres or bullet cases?
The idea of using cement bags, tyres and bullet cases isn’t ours. The artisans were already very good and skilled in up-cycling these kind of materials and turn them into bags or jewellery. What we do is to work with their skills and design something together that can appeal to the western market. One of our main objective is to open new markets for the producers, to which otherwise they wouldn’t have access to. We loved the idea of creating more products with recycled material considering the environmental crisis that we are facing today so we focused mainly on developing our up-cycled collection.
How many people are involved in the process and have work thanks to Lost in Samsara?
Between the two producers groups that we work with in Cambodia there are around 60 people employed.
What is, for you, sustainability and ethical work behaviour in fashion, or in life?
Everything. The current economical system is designed to exploit both people and natural resources in order to maximise profits. It’s faulty in its premises.
There is a lot that needs to be done and we can all do our part in the way we feel more comfortable with. From the small choices we make everyday, to the bigger actions like campaigning and joining protests. There are many social enterprises out there that are led by their mission of social and environmental justice, that share their profits in order to empower the communities they work with and find solutions that are sustainable in the long term. For us the fair trade principles encompass most of the values that should be at the basis of an ethical behaviour in any industry like: transparency and accountability, the payment of a fair price, ensuring that there is no child labor or forced labor, gender equality and respect for the environment.
What do you think about green washing?
It is unfortunately a real danger. Often we find ourselves powerless and subject to false advertisement as we do not posses all the information needed to make informed choices. We would recommend website like Ethical Consumer Magazine, they offer good insight on companies and rank them according to their ethical record across different categories. Also some products can be considered ‘ethical’ but the company making them is not.
What are Lost in Samsara’s plans for future?
We would like to continue growing so to be able to reinvest more in the communities we work with. If we manage to create more jobs we could benefit more people that would be able to earn a living wage, send their children to school and save for their future.
We would love to expand our collections by recycling new and different materials and help the artisans to develop new skills that they can teach to other members of the community and keep creating a ripple effect of change.
So there you go, with a small step like purchasing something from the collection or just liking their Instagram page you can help the change as well.
Do it! You’ll feel great, and for a long time!
What could be better than that?!
And if you are still wondering what Lost in Samsara means click here and read all about it!