NEXT Story#JHxJoya: The Journey of Scent
John Hardy x FEED Projects: Q&A with Lauren Bush Lauren
June 17, 2017
Embodying the theme of Summer Semaya, meaning “commitment” in Balinese, we partnered with FEED Projects to create a custom JH x FEED Projects tote as a gift to our clients. The partnership evokes our ongoing support of artisan communities and environmental sustainability, and with each bag given, 25 meals are provided to impoverished children. We met with the inspiring FEED Projects founder Lauren Bush Lauren to learn more about her philosophy, vision and the future of her company.
Can you talk a little bit about the trip you took to Guatemala as a college sophomore that eventually inspired you to start FEED Projects in 2007?
When I was a sophomore in college, I had the amazing opportunity to travel with the UN World Food Programme as a student ambassador. I traveled all over the world with WFP, from Asia to Africa to South America, seeing the realities of childhood hunger firsthand. While I was overwhelmed seeing kids lacking something as basic as food, simply because of where they were born, I also saw a solution to the massive problem in school feeding. When kids get a free and nutritious school lunch, they are better able to focus and learn in school, and their parents are more incentivized to send them. I came home knowing that I wanted to get my peers involved in supporting this amazing program. My idea for the first FEED Bag—and the tangible number on each product representing the number of meals donated with purchase—came out of that desire.
The FEED bags John Hardy customers will receive this summer are decorated with the word Semaya, which means commitment in Balinese. What does this message mean to you in terms of your philanthropic work?
I love that. For me, for my team, and for our customers, carrying a FEED bag symbolizes a commitment to creating a world where every child has the nutrition he or she needs to grow, learn and thrive.
FEED combines fashion and charity, aimed at those who want to put their consumer dollars to good use. Since you launched, you’ve expanded from one bag to an entire line of accessories and bags. Can you talk a little about the growth you’ve experienced?
This is a big year of reflection for us, as we are about to celebrate our ten-year anniversary as a brand. What started as an idea for a simple burlap tote in my college dorm room has transformed into a movement where making a difference can be integrated into daily decisions about what to buy and what to wear. It is pretty amazing to think that we have given over 97 million meals over the past ten years thanks to our incredible community of conscious consumers.
John Hardy has an environmentally friendly workshop in Bali and the Wear Bamboo, Plant Bamboo initiative. How is sustainability important to you and FEED?
While we are very proud of school meals being the primary pillar of our brand impact, we are also conscious of our products doing good in the world in more ways that one. One of the ways we do this is through our artisan collections. We are also investing in sustainable livelihoods for makers, while helping to support local traditions of craftsmanship. My favorite artisan product is our FEED Kenya Bag, which provides a year of meals for two children in Kenya when purchased. The hand-beading is stunning.
Many of our artisans come from families who have worked with us for generations, and they spend so much time and care crafting each piece of jewelry. How do you discover the artisans you collaborate with on your designs?
The most important question we ask when looking for new artisan groups to work with is whether we will be able to invest in that community for the long haul. We never want to leave a group vulnerable by providing employment for one or two seasons and then moving on. We have supported the artisans who make our Kenya collection for over six years now. They are part of our FEED family.
You also opened your first brick and mortar café in DUMBO this May, where a meal is donated for each cup of coffee and food item sold, with more donated for larger orders. What are your goals for the café and for the charity in the coming year?
Opening a store has been a dream of mine for years, and it has truly been a high point as the founder of FEED to see it come to fruition, thanks to my amazing team. There is something about getting to touch and feel our bags and curated goods that might be missed when shopping online. My goal for the FEED Shop & Café this year is that it continues to be a community hub for likeminded people who care about doing good in the world. We are using it as an opportunity to get to know our customer more and evolve our product offering to meet her needs.
In keeping with our Summer Travel theme, where will you be taking your FEED bag this summer?
I’m actually on a plane to Mozambique with some members of Team FEED right now! We’re going to get to know some of the schools and kids our products support through the World Food Programme. It’s important to me that every person on our team understands the implications of what we do, and can talk about the power of a school meal. We’re all carrying different FEED bags, but I’m partial to the original FEED 1 Bag for international travel. It fits everything!
Our Gift to You Gives Back to Them*
Use Code: SUMMER17
John Hardy x FEED Projects
With any purchase this summer, you’ll receive a custom FEED Projects tote bag that will provide 25 meals to impoverished children.
Semaya, meaning “commitment” in Balinese, evokes the essence of our ongoing support of artisan communities and environmental sustainability that is echoed in our social impact initiatives such as Wear Bamboo, Plant Bamboo.
Live the Legacy
Join Our Exploration of Style, Culture, & Philanthropy by tagging your summer of commitment photos with #SummerSemaya and @JohnHardyJewelry. Follow @JohnHardyJewelry for a chance to see your photos on display.