Ways of Change: Where fashion and refugees collaborate

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Sometimes all it takes is one key jewellery piece to make a statement, and with Ways of Change’s line of artisanal pieces not only will you be making a style statement but also a socially conscious statement.

Ways of Change is an ethically sourced fashion brand, selling artisanal jewellery, which aims to inspire people to use the power of their purchase to create positive change in the world.

The company is the conception of cousins Cara Boccieri and Lauren Baird who have combined their respective work in policy and advocacy and the fashion industry. What you get is a fashion label that is eager to “create a space of mutual empowerment where people can recognize themselves in others”.

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Ways of Change do this by calling on wearers to ask who makes their product, where it comes from and under what working conditions, thus connecting artisan workers with those who adorn the products they create.

The fashion brand works with artisans living in refugee situations to collaboratively develop jewellery and accessories using their traditional skills. The company offer fair wages, entrepreneurial training and a portion of profits support community projects.

Currently Ways of Change work with artisans from the Kayan community, an indigenous tribe that have survived decades of colonization followed by years of war with the Burmese military government. Many Kayan people live in refugee camps and villages in Thailand, near the border with Burma, without freedom of movement or work rights.

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It’s a small team of Kayan artisans, whose skills originate from centuries’ old traditions passed down through the generations, who have produced Ways of Change’s current line of jewelry, ‘Ga Na Tay’.

Cara Boccieri, Co-Founder and Community Director, explained how the fashion label was born out of a combined inspirational force of fashion as well as the resilience of people, usually indigenous, who have been affected by conflict and migration. Therefore empowering refugees through ethical fashion.

She said: “A person who has fled their home, not only has a story of family, culture, skills, love and beauty, but also very defining experiences of conflict, resilience and a search for peace and positive change. These are the stories that Ways of Change aims to share with the global community.”

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Each artisan speaks candidly about the skills they have learned, keeping their traditions alive in spite of being displaced, and the threat to the preservation of artisan skills in a series of video diaries on the Ways of Change website.

Brass is a key metal used in Ways of Change’s ‘Ga Nay Tay’ collection, which also combines with handmade wooden pendants and delicate coin pendants – designed for “the city girl with a conscious”, according to Ways of Change. Stand out pieces from Ways of Change include the solid brass hammered cuffs made from hammering brass into a carved buffalo horn mold which gives them their unique shape and textured quality; the Sa Mu Spike Necklace which is an on-trend tribal style piece made with wooden spike pendants on a vintage up-cycled brass cable chain; and a brass coil ring, which combines the brass neck coils that many Kayan women wear and the contemporary style of layered and stacked rings.

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A portion of the company’s profits are used to support community projects that focus on empowerment and sustainable living, contributing to the positive change that the communities such as the Kayans desire.

Ways of Change collection is available online

This article originally appeared on Ravenhawks’ Magazine 

NAJO (AU)

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