Elizabeth Suda from New York is the owner of the brand article22, which is environmentally friendly jewelry originating from inactive bomb waste in Laos. For years she had unanswered questions, a simple question, “how and by whom did we consume the goods made?”
After two years working at the Merchandising Department at Coach’s luxury brand, she then packed her bag and traveled to Laos. She had no plans for what she would do there but she was still ready. Upon arrival in Vientiane, she began studying the local textile business carried out by women there.
Elizabeth Suda and Laos Trips
She graduated from the Department of History at Williams College and Oxford University so she felt deceived by her lack of awareness of the War in Laos in 1963-1974 which left the legacy of 80 million inactive bombs.
She is in Laos on a mission to understand how local and sustainable crafts made by women can be linked to the global fashion market. Realizing that market design was a major obstacle to craftsmen, she founded ARTICLE 22 when she met craftsmen in the village who melted US bombs into spoons.
After 6 months living in Laos, she was hired as a consultant for the Swiss NGO Helvetas for textile research assignments in four rural agricultural villages in northern Laos. In one of the villages where she worked, she noticed local residents making spoons. Those women made the same spoon that she ate breakfast noodle soup that morning. She then spoke with the craftsmen and looked more closely at the pile of melted scrap metal containing bomb fragments from a US bomb that read “Rocket mortar”.
Elizabeth Suda and the Turning Point of Her Career
She was stunned and had the idea of making a bracelet that would tell the story of craftsmen, the Secret War in Laos, and allow her to buy back the bombs as fair trade jewelry.
Before her trip to Laos, she did not know that Laos was considered the most bombed per capita country in history, and, the legacy of the clandestine war that left Laos with more than 80 million unexploded bombs (of which more than 1% were cleared at this time). She was very impressed with their toughness and ingenuity, and she wanted to take their local innovations to a more global level while also helping raise awareness and funds for the MAG (Mining Group) to be able to clear some of the 80 million unexploded bombs.
In Naphia Village where the base of all the aluminum components of the jewelry is made, Suda pays 7x craftsmen from the local spoon price. For part-time jobs, they get on average 5x hourly wages from local minimum standards. Importantly, they have built a supply chain that, if possible, is home-based and supports local ways of life and culture.
In addition, she also created a Peacebomb bracelet with the idea of buying back those unused bombs. Since then, Article22 has developed into a global business and sells jewelry collections to customers in 40 countries including her famous customers Angela Lindvall, Emma Watson, and actress Olivia Wilde.
The jewelry provides additional income for local residents and with so many choices, the living conditions of the local population are getting better. Elizabeth Suda with her intention to care for the environment has inspired us all to care more about the social impact of every product that we use.