With the help of master artisans from the African country of Namibia, twin brothers Chris and Doug Akin have started the Base Project, an eco-friendly fashion brand that brings locally sourced bracelets, cuffs and hand-sewn bags to the U.S. They’re giving back, too, by re-investing their profits in Namibian humanitarian projects such as a sustainable community farm.
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On how the Base Project began: “It started over dinner one night between Doug and I. At the time, we were both feeling disenfranchised with our jobs in marketing and media. So we decided to team up on an entrepreneurial venture in the fashion industry that had social good built into its DNA.”
On why Namibia: “Namibia chose us. Interestingly enough, our first line of Namibian bracelets wasn’t part of the plan. I test-marketed other products, but people kept gravitating toward a bracelet that I wore. A friend had given it to me years earlier. At the time, all I knew is that it came from Namibia, and that it was made from up-cycled plastic. I decided to connect the dots, which led me to some of the oldest tribes in Africa, including the Himba and Herero tribes who we still work with today.”
On the Himba and Herero tribes’ designs: “They’re influenced by their tribal customs and nearby wildlife and landscapes. We work with them to modify small design features for the Western market—quality control sizing, etc.—but the rest is all them.”
On paying it forward with a sustainable farm: “Irrigation lines for the crops are built. Fencing of the 40 acres is about halfway done. So it’s going well, but a little slower than anticipated. Our projects always teach us to improve our timelines and better account for things like weather, cultural differences or a simple change of course to ensure our final project best meets the community’s needs.”
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