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Pain to Beauty: This Start-up Transforms War Remnants Into Fashion Items

Through her designs, she wishes to inspire meaningful change in people

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BY Jared Carl Millan - 21 Jul 2017

PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images

Sojourns to far off places often yield meaningful life experiences. Such was the case when Cassandra Postema, during one of her travels to Cambodia, encountered an artisan who was crafting jewelry from bombshell and landmine casings—leftovers from the wars that have devastated the country.

“I thought it was such a great idea to make something beautiful out of something ugly and that had caused harm,” she said. “There is a sense of redemption there.”

Eight months after her trip, that concept of transformation birthed Emi&Eve, a “conscious” fashion brand that recycles exploded remnants of war that were excavated during regulated landmine clearings in Cambodia, such as brass components and sometimes even entire landmine covers or casings, and transforms them into stunning pieces of art.

Meaningful merchandise

Having studied Fashion at Central St. Martins’ School of Art and Design in London and gained experience in the field of fashion across Asia and the UK, Postema always wanted to explore other avenues in her career, and to make something worthwhile has always been high on her list of priorities.

“I have always been looking to do something more meaningful as a designer, like recycling and working with people who need jobs,” Postema says. “Besides that, I am also passionate about good design, which in my opinion addresses sustainability. I search for synergies between sustainability, economic empowerment and a well-designed product, brand and marketing message.”

The message Cassandra hopes Emi&Eve sends out is that of optimism and hope, that there’s something good to be gleaned from the darkest periods of one’s life. Through her designs, she wishes to inspire meaningful change in people.

Beyond retail

“We have seen how our customers attach their own story of overcoming to our jewelry and that is beautiful and moving to hear,” Postema says of their products. “Importantly, we are creating jobs in Cambodia, a country still recovering from war with limited options for young adults to enter the job market.”

Not only does Emi&Eve employ locals in Cambodia, working closely with artisans and country coordinators, but they also share offices with a local charity that the company has co-founded to help the local community that struggles with HIV.

Through Emi&Eve and its designs, Postema also strives to honor a legendary artisanship that is a staple to the Khmer culture. “Think Angkor Wat and the beautiful Apsara dance costumes,” she says. “Finally, [there’s] a shift in value perspective that we address as well. Can you create more value through recycling? There are so many discarded materials littering the world, that can easily be reused with some creative thinking.”

Already, there has been a lot of positive response for the company. Postema once recalled a memorable reaction from a Japanese customer who had bought one of their Unity bracelets. “Her perspective was, ‘I can connect with someone in the universe through a bombshell in the ground in Cambodia. I am not alone; someone still needs me even if I did not know it all this time’,” she shares. “Our customers find their own meaning in our collections.”

Apart from the crowdfunding campaign that had helped launch the whole endeavor—getting more than $100,000—Postema says one of the best things that she’s gotten out of the whole journey was the people she’s encountered along the way.

“The close connections with everyone I work with in Cambodia has given me a number of new families and sense of belonging,” she says.

At the end of the day, Postema believes that there should be more products that go beyond the face value, especially “in a world of fast fashion and a world where more and more people are traveling and searching for transparency and meaningful connections.”

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