Architecture for Humanity headquarters were jam-packed with volunteers, visitors and staff for our weekly Lunch and Learn. Bobby Chang, co-founder of California-based Incase, visited to present on Invisible Children's MEND program. A designer by trade, Bobby said he'd been working in Asia and wanted to evolve his skills to do something more 'responsible.' He was inspired by MEND and thought he could bring his design skills and knowledge to expand the program.
Who Made Your Bag?
MEND creates a personal connection between handbag producers in Uganda who've been ravaged by war and at the same time stitches their lives back together. It's a program that works to bring peace to Northern Uganda and end the use of child soldiers. Each bag is made one at a time by women whose name is sewn into the bag -- a true custom operation.
Bobby said he sees an opportunity to turn MEND into a for-profit venture. He wants to bring the program to market by leveraging his connections in the design field in L.A. and San Francisco. At the same time, he said he does not want to turn MEND into an assembly line operation. He wants to be sure the women maintain a sense of dignity and feel involved in the production process from start to finish. The brand has 'boutique appeal' so Bobby said he envisions no more than 70 to 80 women sewing bags. If all goes well, Bobby said he hopes MEND could be duplicated elsewhere in Africa.