When Chris Akin, co-founder of THE BASE PROJECT, came to visit the Edition01 offices last month we all snapped up bracelets from the collection of hard crafted up-cycled accessories. We sat down with Chris to find out more about how it all started and the impact the collection has had.
HOW DID YOU DISCOVER THE ARTISANS YOU WORK WITH IN NAMIBIA?
Fittingly enough, today’s THE BASE PROJECT bracelets were not part of our initial design ideas. While we were testing a few designs, people kept resonating with one of my own bracelets given to me years earlier by a long lost friend. At the time all I knew is that it came from Namibia and it was made from up-cycled plastic. So we decided to connect the dots…which led us to some of the oldest tribes in Africa.
In the early stages of THE BASE PROJECT I would pick up a phone and cold-call anyone whom I thought could connect us to the artisans; the US Embassy in Windhoek, the Director Of Peace Corps in Namibia, NGO’s, etc. Through these conversations and emails, we got closer and closer to the source of the bracelets and used intermediaries to communicate and ship our first samples. This all culminated in our first trip to Namibia to learn about and understand the production process, the story behind the bracelets, the humanitarian needs in the region, and how we could set up a sustainable supply chain.
THE BASE PROJECT co-founders Doug and Chris Akin in Namibia
Doug with the Himbu Tribe
WHO ARE THE PERSONALITIES YOU HAVE MET & ARE NOW YOUR PARTNERS?
There are certainly many memorable people that we have partnered with on the production and community development side of the business. In terms of the artisans we work with there is: Monika, the matriarch of one of the artisan co-operatives in Namibia and an originator of the plastic water pipe bracelet design. Livinus, a gentleman in Ghana who has dedicated his life’s work to orphans and vulnerable children (New Seed International is his organization/orphanage) and who partners with us to produce our packaging. Karin, a savvy and energetic woman in the capital city of Namibia, Windhoek, who has spent the last 20 years dedicating herself to economic development through artisan handcraft and community development.
WHAT BUSINESS SKILLS DO YOU TEACH THESE ARTISAN-ENTREPENEURS?
We teach them with invaluable communication, operations, finance and marketing skills that provide a means to improve their lives and their community. More specifically we routinely work on quality control, meeting deadlines, scaling a business and hiring more artisans, savings.
DO YOU HAVE ANY PLANS TO CREATE OTHER DESIGNS IN THE COLLECTION?
Yes, we plan on bringing out more designs and are playing around with a broader selection of colors. Our plan is to roll out new designs consistently enough to keep our customers happy and match that timing with the best business practices for the artisans we work with.
WHAT IS THE SIGNIFICANCE OF THE BASE PROJECT’S TERM “WEAR YOUR IMPACT”?
“Wear Your Impact” embodies the choice we make to deliver both an aesthetic ans social statement with our fashion. Daily, we broadcast to the world a message with our clothing and what better way to additionally show that we support a social cause, idea, or movement. Wearing Your Impact with a unique product like the bracelets creates a ground swell of ambassadors for THE BASE PROJECT.
WHAT ARE SOME OF THE COMMUNITY PROJECTS THAT HAVE BEEN SUPPORTED BY THE BASE PROJECT?
With our packaging we have supported a feeding program for Orphans and Vulnerable children in Ghana. We partner with New Seed International on this community development program and have supplied funds for farming equipment to prepare the land for crops along with seeds to start growing vegetables to supplement the children’s diets. In Namibia we are presently looking into launching programs that focus on access to basic health care and education.
DO YOU HAVE ANY PLANS TO SET UP THE BASE PROJECT IN OTHER AFRICAN REGIONS OR THIRD WORLD COUNTRIES?
Yes, as mentioned we already started working in Ghana with our packing and related community development programs. The long-term goal of THE BASE PROJECT is to expand into more countries in Africa along with other developing countries with vibrant artisan communities.
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