Fair Trade Jewelry by Lotusland Imports
A couple months ago I had the pleasure of meeting Susan Bibbings, creator of Lotusland Imports. We chatted in a coffee shop to discuss her new fair trade jewelry line and I was beyond impressed to find out that she founded a school in Africa, became fluent in Japanese, and has a huge heart for the environment.
Her company Lotusland Imports incorporates a lot of those aspects of her life: international collaboration, empowerment to women, and fighting to save threatened forests. Sound amazing? Well, it honestly is. Lotusland Imports really blew me away, both by its designs and the beautiful story behind it.
The idea started from a conversation in an airport waiting room. Susan chatted with two Maasai women who opened up to her about their concerns regarding deforestation in their village. They explained how most of the women in the foothills of Mount Kilimanjaro cut down trees to harvest charcoal which they sell on the streets. Although they are not keen to deforestation, cutting down trees is the primary way of making a living in their area. Noting the women’s desire to make a decent wage, work hard, and express their craftsmanship, Susan had an idea to address the poverty of the Maasai tribe. To change the local economy, Susan hired Maasai women to make beaded fair trade jewelry, utilizing their artistic talent. The result? A gorgeous line of accessories made from fairly paid women who can now afford food, medical expenses, and a better quality of life without causing a detrimental effect to the environment.
However, the story doesn’t end there!
If you have taken a look at Lotusland Imports you may note how the designs are insanely unique. Sometimes I feel like I’ve seen in all in terms of jewelry design, but I have really never seen these types of necklaces until I met Susan. She explained to me that they are designed in Milan by students of Italy’s prestigious Istituto Europeo di Design.
The “fashion fusion where Milan meets Maasai,” truly has a unique edge to it, incorporating a twist of artisan talents which very well may have never been mixed before. The fun thing about wearing a Lotusland Imports accessory is the occasional stare or head tilt I’ve gotten! I have had quite a few people, strangers even, approach me and ask where I got such a pretty necklace. The best part about this is that I have an awesome story to share about the Maasai women, the Milan design students, and my love and passion in supporting fair trade companies.
The piece I am wearing is the Olndende necklace, aka the ‘princess necklace,’ named after Princess Caroline who wears one of her own. The piece is delicate and complex with 6 beaded strands fallen from 3 central circles that lay near the heart. These circles symbolize the “circles of life.”
As beautiful as these designs are, the narrative behind them is what makes them sentimental to me. As I have mentioned before, I love the idea of placing beautiful things on my body that embody goodness in the world. There is a lot of good energy, compassion, and care welded into each necklace. As a sustainable fashionista, I feel a sense of good karma incorporating one into a simple eco ensemble.