North Carolina-based Nestor Pineda insists on using recycled and natural raw materials. “Being eco-friendly and environmentally conscious is the core of my company,” he tells Ecouterre. “It is the DNA of my products.” His company, Aria Handmade, produces handcrafted jewelry and accessories featuring hand-harvested, nuts and seeds of South America, along with recycled materials from the United States.
Pineda finds recycled aluminum from Miami, fibers from North Carolina, and orange peel and melon seeds from the local farmers’ market. His colorful cowls on display at the NYIGF drew our eye and became of even more interest after we found out they are hand-spun by local spinners in Asheville.
As a member of the Fair Trade Federation, Worldfinds works directly with low-income artisans in India and Indonesia. The cuffs and bracelets are made from the scraps left over from bag production. The Kantha collection of bracelets and handbags on display at the NYIGF highlighted their ability to give recycled cotton kantha quilts a new life. The quilts themselves are made from recycled saris, so the resulting Worldfinds products could be considered re-upcycled!
Mushmina has only existed as a company for three years, but the passion behind the effort spans many years. Sisters Katie and Heather O’Neill wanted to make a difference in the developing world and chose Morocco as a base where they now employ over 75 artisans, both men and women. Through their line of fair trade bags, clothing, scarves and jewelry, they help promote cultural integrity and quality craftsmanship. Their jewelry features upcycled metals and found charms and their newest line of bags are made from traditional upholstery fabrics. Although many of the local artisans work from home, the duo are set to open a Mushmina Workshop and atelier in the near future.
Mata Traders is another fair trade company that works with artisans in India and Nepal to create clothing, accessories, bags and jewelry. The company employs about 400 women who produce two collections per year. All products are handmade using artistic traditions such as block-printing and hand embroidery. With bold patterns en vogue, why not choose some with a real story and face behind them?
Closer to home, LA-based Eric Silva uses a variety of found and recycled materials in his jewelry line. Sophisticated cuffs feature upcycled steel overlaid with found shed antler. Silva converts recycled wood into carved chain-link necklaces that add a natural touch to any outfit. Even hardened volcanic lava becomes the pendant and focal point for an otherwise rustic sterling silver necklace.
Aurea is a small company that works with local talent and resources to produce well-designed products made from natural materials. The Brazilian fair trade company has made a name for itself with its golden grass products. The shimmery, natural fiber looks similar to gold or fine copper filaments and when tightly woven or wrapped into Aurea’s line of jewelry, it proves just as resilient. Golden grass grows abundantly in Central Brazil without the use of pesticides or other toxic products. Moreover, local regulations prevent over-harvesting and no dyes or coatings are applied to the finished products. Aurea works directly with artisan, most of who are women who work from home and set their own prices.
Mushana’s Market Bag caught our eye for its creative use of recycled paper. The recycled magazine pages are hand rolled on toothpicks, naturally dyed and woven into form. The bags are handmade by artisans in Uganda who receive a fair wage for their work. Mushana works with international designers and local artisans who use both recycled and local materials to create home and fashion items appealing to international markets.