Guest Post by: Cassandra Postema of Emi&Eve
I am a fashion designer.
My raw material is ammunition. I recycle bullets, bomb casings and mine shrapnel and melt it into jewelry. I sell shiny gold mini clutches with stone settings made out of dirty bomb casings found in the ground.
And I am often asked how I found it. Normally I give the short answer: a trip to Cambodia.
But here is the story that involves two journeys:
When I graduated from Central St Martins School of Art, I knew I wanted to use fashion to make the world a better place. (It’s taken a while to figure this out.)
Having grown up in South East Asia and living in Hong Kong, the 2004 tsunami deeply affected me, but since I wasn’t a doctor, I was frustrated that I couldn’t help.
But I had an idea.
I could raise funds with T-shirts I designed. So I had an opportunity to travel to a small island in Indonesia, an island directly on the fault line of that earthquake. But lo and behold, the fault line had another major hiccup to the tune of M8.7 and our organised plans of handing out aid were thwarted.
We were now one with the locals in the crumbling chaos, wondering what would happen next, where we would sleep and where our food was going to come from. This marked my place in the world.
Just over a year ago I left a business partnership that was based on social enterprise with lofty ideals that both friendship and the confidence to “build it and they will come”. And yes, we achieved many things, brought work to those who needed it, created beautiful handbags and sold to major clients such as Anthropologie and ASOS.
But after a while, I found myself lost, broke and living on friends’ couches wondering where I had gone wrong.
I embarked on a journey of a different kind.
I discovered that how the failing of the social enterprise I co-founded, and my financial downward spiral taught me a lot about myself. I had to ask why this had happened and look at recurring patterns in my life.
I cleared a new path of awareness that helped me soak up the necessary information like a thirsty sponge. I learned about goal setting. I took a digital marketing course. I took stock of missed opportunities in building relationships because of social fears. And on and on.
I decided to invest in relationships of every kind.
The only thing I needed to do to move forward in my calling was to find a way to package who I was, who I wanted to be, what I stood for, what my creativity was all about into one bite size piece, knowing that from there, the rest would flow. I went to Cambodia with a friend, and there I found it. Eight months later I launched my new brand.
On my third trip last month, I made a video about what we had achieved so far, the people I work with and I.
With limited resources and still shaping the script and story of the movie, I used my iPhone to film everything I saw: flower displays in the streets, views off rooftops, the countryside from a tuktuk, the melting of bullets in the foundry and the people I work with, including a staff member at the Cambodia Mine Action Center.
I heard how they survived a harrowing war, with memories of carrying ammunition, running for their lives, living in uncertainty whether there was going to be a tomorrow or not, losing family members. They smile to tell their tale and they work incredibly, incredibly hard. They are an inspiration to me by overcoming adversity with determination and creativity.
If they can, I know I can too! This is what I convey in my designs.