Emi & Eve: Upcycling Bullets into Accessories

Written by Ren Wan, originally posted on Eco Fashion World


Proving that fashion design elements can be problem-solving, Hong Kong-based Emi & Eve is an accessory maker who upcycles weapons reminiscent of the brutality of war.

It was last year when Emi & Eve celebrated a very successful crowd-funding campaign on Indiegogo, followed by a crowded party where conscientious fashion lovers gathered for the launch of the collection using recycled ammunition from Cambodia. Cassandra Postema, the founder, was thankful that the start-up would bring economic empowerment to skilled Cambodian artisans. “Making a difference through design has always been my passion. It is only through great design, where the product can stand on its own, that you can really make a difference,” said Cassandra.

Cassandra is a printed textile designer by trade, who possesses all the qualities for success in luxury fashion. She is a graduate of the prestigious Central St. Martin’s, and has professional associations with Dolce Gabanna, Cacharel, Marithe Francois Girbaud and other agencies. Years ago she already saw, with pride, her printed silk womenswear on the runway of London Fashion Week and then sold it worldwide. But she returned to Asia, where she grew up, and is now based in Hong Kong. After many turns of life, she founded Emi & Eve.

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Peace bracelet by Emi & Eve
“I was looking for a new challenge at the time, and I was also looking for a certain simplicity. Plus, I came across the right people at the right time in my life where I was at a turning point.” The ‘right people’ she mentions are a bomb recycling family she met during a trip in Cambodia. Astonished by the skills of the artisans, whom she blogged about, and the issue of exploded remnants of war (ERW), Cassandra guided the artisans to make the first Peace Bracelet in 2012 for Emi & Eve. Currently, Emi & Eve works with skilled artisans in Cambodia who are trained to use recycled bullets and bombshells to create accessories or ornaments, and beautiful patterned handbags. “I push the artists to create a wow product,” Cassandra emphasizes. She continues, “I know they appreciate making new and challenging things. This has been challenging for them. At the same time, I have not worked with metal before so I need to learn the limitations as well. Considering the communication gap and distance on top of that, we have done quite well!”

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Cassandra shares more with me about the story behind the metal from the battlefield and her views on responsible fashion:

EFW: Nowadays, most designers who create for a good cause focus mainly on putting a spotlight toward poverty and underdevelopment, while you chose to raise awareness about ‘exploded remnants of war’. Why is that?

Cassandra Postema: I came at the concept from a  design perspective, not advocating a cause.  I was looking for a new challenge at the time, and I was also looking for a certain simplicity. Plus, I came across the right people at the right time in my life where I was at a turning point. So all of these factors together became Bullets to Beauty. I realized that most everyone goes through some trial in their life, and it’s what you do with it that counts, hopefully turning it into a positive experience.

EFW: Your experience in fashion was definitely an advantage but was it difficult to launch a label that puts forward a ‘heavy’ message?

CP: To be honest, I think a lot of people now know that mass market fashion can have a heavy toll. People are looking for fashion that has more meaning than just a cheap version of a trend from questionable sources. We translate a personal story into something we can all relate to. Plus, I took the heaviness out by promoting positive designs that make people smile and feel proud to wear. The emphasis is on the positive, not the negative.

EFW: How are your customers / wholesalers responding to Emi & Eve?

CP: They respond very well, ever since we launched the first line here in Hong Kong and sold out in two months. So we had to crowd-fund and again, the response was overwhelmingly positive. Then for the Christmas season it was the same reaction, our jewelry items make great gifts. We make pieces that are easy gifts as well as more ‘out there’ fashion statements where the end design looks so far removed from the material source. Women love showing off the unique pieces at parties and weddings.

EFW: To effectively convey a message about sustainability and ethics, great style is vital. Do you agree with that?

CP: For sure. Not only for credibility, but good design is well thought out. And you have to think creatively when you work with limited or specific resources.

EFW: What’s your opinion about the development of ethical, fair trade fashion?

CP: There is definitely a lot more awareness in recent years. Luxury brands are now in on ethical production and CSR programs (LVMH, Vivienne Westwood, Burberry etc.). The corporate world is changing as they realize their customers want transparency and investment in social ethics. So, we see more CSR investment into social enterprises.

EFW: Fashion consumers are making a huge impact with every single purchase. What else do you think fashion consumers should understand before they can contribute to a fair, sustainable fashion industry?

CP: Even when you know where your clothes are made it’s not always obvious if conditions are ok or not for the workers, unless you talk to the workers themselves. We depend on the transparency of the brands. At the end of the day, the consumer has the responsibility to be informed and vote for what they care about, with their dollars.

EFW: Other projects that you are working on?

CP: We are currently working on expanding our network of recycling artisans and searching for investors or other sources to scale up the business.

Emi & Eve has an etsy store and retail locations in London, New York, Singapore, Hong Kong and New Zealand.

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Born and brought up in Hong Kong, Ren Wan is dedicated to live as an ethical, responsible and conscious urbanite. As Managing Editor of WestEast Magazine, Asia’s leading and internationally distributed fashion and culture publication, she brings to intellectual readers insightful stories about urban issues, environment, culture and fashion. With a strong belief in market environmentalism as a practical way to promote the right values, Ren co-founded JUPYEAH, Hong Kong’s pioneering swap event organiser and sharing economy advocate that provides practical solutions for reducing waste and irresponsible consumption. Ren is also studying her postgraduate diploma in Sustainable Development at SOAS, University of London; and she is excited to expose Eco Fashion World’s readers to the sustainable fashion and lifestyle scene of Asia.  Find out more about her at her blogLoccomama

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