The Base Project
There’s a great store called H.O.W.L. on Abbot Kinney Street in Venice, CA. It’s the last store in the charming maze of independent shops behind the Piece Collective. While shopping for something else entirely I happened upon this basket of tribal-motif bracelets. These bands of red clay, camel, and charcoal earth tones had geometric lines carved into them forming various eye-catching patterns. When I picked one up, I was surprised by how hard but lightweight it was. Without a clasp and only a narrow opening to put it on, I was afraid I might break it, but the salesperson assured me that the bracelet was indestructible. “Just pull it apart and slap it on,” she said and sure enough the band flexed when I put it on my wrist and then returned to its original shape without a problem. “What are these?” I asked exclaiming how much I loved them. “The company is called The Base Project—they’re like Toms’,” she said, “for every bracelet you buy you’re actually supporting local artists in Africa.” Sure enough on the inside of the bracelet was a tag that read, “hand carved by local artisans in Namibia, Africa using upcycled materials. See your impact in their local community at www.thebaseproject.com.” SOLD!
Twin brothers Chris and Doug Akin founded The Base Project in order to connect artisans in less flourishing markets around the globe to the US market. Like Toms’, The Base Project takes a percentage of their proceeds and puts it back into the local communities investing in developmental projects as well as providing employment opportunities. These bracelets hail from the Himba and Herero tribes located in the Kunene region of Nambia. This region is known for its picturesque landscape and exotic wildlife but in the backdrop are the issues plaguing the community which include the consistent spread of HIV, disproportionate unemployment, and less than adequate healthcare. “Our bracelets are fair trade products, providing the artisans additional income for school fees, healthcare and food.”
Made from discarded plastic pipe that is gathered and hand-cut by the artisans, 14 unisex designs create the line. The color comes from sun exposure and the Namibia soil. Designers draw inspiration from their surroundings and cultural traditions. Most recently, The Base Project added Oryx in silver and gold tones, which I’m dying to get my hands on. I have three of these plastic ones, but I must say, the same tribal motif etched in silver or gold brings the entire collection to a luxury level. I absolutely love “do-gooder-fashion.” It makes the price-point feel more like a donation, but instead of that pink slip you get at Goodwill for your records (the one your accountant laughs at when you try to claim it on your taxes), you get a gorgeous, chic bracelet and a daily reminder of being apart of the solution!