Common Threads can be found in the deepest corners of the world.
Today, we meet Chrissie Lam, the philanthropic founder of The Supply Change. Lam's work connects global brands with artisan groups to bring socially conscious fashion and products to the mainstream. Her latest endeavor involves a universal message of love through the Love Is Project, asking the world: What is Love? The movement encourages the greatest love story of all time with shared stories and handmade bracelets made in Kenyan by the Maasai women.
You describe yourself as a modern day gypsy. What does a day in your shoes consist of?
Depends on where I am. At home in Bali, morning yoga or tennis, swimming and meditation. Visiting new projects and people, sourcing/production meetings. Working remotely means I answer emails and calls at random hours. I try to incorporate newness in my week to keep things fresh with a trip to a new waterfall or cool hike or trying a new restaurant. I love being in nature and in warm climates.
After being nomadic for a few years, it's been nice to be able to get into a routine over the past year. Travel has made me adaptable and flexible, allowing me to navigate many situations and people.
Every day was a new day, especially on the road in new countries, which was exciting and exhilarating, but also got exhausting. You never knew what was going to happen. Like a modern day Alice in Wonderland adventure.
You've explored over 100 countries in just over a decade. What did you grasp from those experiences and which journey was the most impactful to you?
Travel has always been a huge source of inspiration for me. I love meeting new people and learning about and experiencing new cultures. The cumulative total of all my experiences have impacted on how I view the world and relate to people. It has increased my street savvy, patience and awe for human resilience and the beauty of nature. The Love Is Project journey has been the most impactful and intensive to date.
July 1, 2014, I embarked on an adventure which took me to over 30 countries in 4 months. All of this took place against a background of tumultuous world events. In a world with so much pain, where it could feel like we were constantly exposed to more hate stories about of fear, war, displacement and terrorism, than real stories about love. The success of the project showed an appetite for something different.
Technology keeps us connected, yet we are disconnected in real life. The Love Is Project was an experiment in human connection and the exponential power of love.
EXCLUSIVE PROMO! Take 10% off the LOVE bracelet of your choice with coupon code TAKE 10.
Can you tell us how your career transitioned from working with big corporations like Abercrombie & Fitch to projects that promote social change?
For 12 years, I worked as a Concept Designer in the fashion industry in New York City. It was a dream job to explore new cities and countries, finding the latest trends and inspirations while meeting interesting people. However, despite its perks, something was missing. I was searching for ways to integrate fashion for social good. My first foray into the philanthropic sector was a during a 3 month sabbatical in Rwanda in 2008. I connected graphic designers to nonprofit organizations in East Africa to rebrand and design graphic tees to raise money and awareness for women’s sexual violence, genocide documentation and school fees and supplies for children.
In 2012, these efforts naturally dovetailed into The Supply Change, a consultancy I started to develop more socially-conscious sourcing options for the fashion industry. The Supply Change connects artisan groups to brands and creates concepts and products for those collaborations.
Merging my passions for design and international development while using my skills and network allowed me to evolve my career path from fashion towards philanthropy.
Leaving corporate behind, this new lifestyle change also enabled me to satisfy my need for freedom and adventure, outside the confines of the 9-to-5.
Have you always been a natural curator at heart?
Curating adventures is one of my favorite things to do. Another one is connecting people. I’m a consummate connector. The Love Is Project is an effortless extension of what I love to do combined with my background in Research & Development. My earliest memory is organizing my high school's annual fashion show. I also planned many excursions for my friends to water parks, river rafting, Tahoe trips & SF nights... I think being a yearbook photographer helped me creatively come up with unique ideas and fun perspectives.
What are you passionate about changing or enhancing in the world?
- Love, understanding and acceptance.
- Female economic empowerment
- Preserving traditional artisan skills
- Promoting eco-initiative and innovations.
What inspired the Love Is Project and how can one get involved?
The first LOVE bracelet touched and passed through hundreds of hands around the globe, like an Olympic torch. I envision applying this idea to the supply chain aspect of the Love Is Project, changing the supply chain and truly embodying the Greatest Love Story Ever Told. Sales from the Kenya line will continue to sustain economic development for the women of the Maasai tribes while profits will help fund new product initiatives in Bali. Following Bali, additional profits will help start production elsewhere, so on and so forth. This “Pay It Forward” social enterprise model extends this concept to empower artisan communities worldwide in an ethical supply chain of love.
We would love you to be a part of the Greatest Love Story Ever Told. Support the project by buying a bracelet and posting what love means to you or an inspiring love story on social media with the #loveisproject.
The Supply Change.