31 BITS GOES TO BALI: 31 Bits, the socially-conscious accessories brand founded in Orange County, Calif., in 2008 that works with artisans in Uganda, is expanding its reach to Bali. Known for its recycled paper beaded jewelry, the label’s new collection, set to launch this holiday season in a campaign featuring Rocky Barnes, will introduce brass pieces to help empower artisans in Bali. Many of the pieces also incorporate the brand’s signature paper beads.
The holiday collection — which retails for under $100 on the brand’s e-commerce site, 31bits.com, as well as at Anthropologie and Nordstrom — includes colorful, layered beaded necklaces, bracelets, cuffs and rings in brass, with some pieces dipped in 14-karat gold-plating. “We definitely wanted to create styles that fit into our beaded jewelry but with a modern twist,” said co-founder Alli Swanson. “One important thing to us was to preserve the techniques that they were using in Bali… Every piece displays different skills that are present there. Having a handmade product — where every single part of it was created and cared for and polished by someone — to think about that long and intricate process is so amazing.”
“People in Bali have these amazing skills, but no access to global market,” added co-founder Jessie Simonson, who emphasized the brand’s wider impact on its artisan communities. 31 Bits currently employs about 80 artisans in Northern Uganda, many of whom have been able to start their own businesses and contribute to the local economy — and its founders are hoping to have the same impact in Bali. “It’s one thing to pay someone fairly. That’s the core of what we do,” Simonson said. “But we also want to make sure that our artisans are in a healthy place in the community. We want to make sure their kids are in school, that they are able to provide basic needs to their families and save money for future business endeavors.”
“You have to pay a few dollars more to have an ethically made item… so what are you willing to pay?” said Swanson. “We want to encourage people to make purchases that reflect their personal values.”