Harnessing the power of creativity to generate mass engagement with the Global Goals while making a meaningful difference to the lives of real people. This is what the #TOGETHERBAND campaign is all about. I’ve learned about it first, during my recent visit to the gem of the Swiss Alps: The Alpina Gstaad. A luxurious hotel not only known for its perfect and sustainable approach to hospitality or the renowned Six Senses Spa, but also for its provocative and creative curation of contemporary art works around its 5 star property. And so I’ve learned about a new art work shining in rainbow colors from the wooden chalet’s walls: the #TOGETHERBAND TAPESTRY. A work of art that inspires the viewer to reflect once again on the UN’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals – crafted to balance human needs with the capacity of our world’s ecosystem to cope.
It is remarkable how just one tapestry can demonstrate such a clear call for action to help our planet and the people who live on it. This bold artistic expression with its cascade of 17 vibrant colors makes the case for social activism and promotes the idea of a socially-responsible economic system. Each color represents one of the UN Global Goals where the focus is on working together across continents to make the changes necessary. With a target date of 2030, there is clearly much still to do.
The idea for the tapestry is the latest development in the story of #TOGETHERBAND, a groundbreaking new product created by sustainable fashion brand BOTTLETOP. Appearing on the wrists of those who want their fashion statement to have meaning, #TOGETHERBAND is a range of 17 sustainably and ethically produced bands made from upcycled materials each featuring a selected UN Global Goal. The people making the bands matter – it’s not mass production but rather about generating skills and livelihoods for women in developing countries.
#TOGETHERBAND TAPESTRY is made up of upcycled metal tabs collected from those discarded on the streets each of which is then individually prepared and hand painted by disenfranchised women from the Bahia region of Brazil. BOTTLETOP came up with the concept and oversaw its hand creation and weaving together at their atelier in Salvador. The completed work makes a compelling statement about the state of our world and symbolizes the growing awareness of and commitment to the 17 Global Goals.
Having contemplated the tapestry and reflected on all that it represents, I sat down with Nachson Mimran, Creative Director of the Alpina Gstaad Hotel and CEO and co-founder of TO.org, BOTTLETOP co-founder Cameron Saul and #TOGETHERBAND Ambassador Naomi Campbell. The way they interact and share ideas together shows how it’s possible to energize charitable giving and do so much more to help those who need it most.
The world of fashion would seem somehow incomplete without Naomi Campbell. She has stepped out on the runway to launch so many of the latest collections from the top designers of our age. Her image has appeared on magazine covers on newsstands all over the world and she is a powerful ambassador for the fashion industry. What’s more, her commitment to charity is long-standing – across many chosen areas she works so hard to raise the money to help speak up for those whose voices are muted.
Naomi, you are well known for your charity work. Tell us more about your ambition to be a #TOGETHERBAND Ambassador for Sustainable Development Goal Number 1: ‘No More Poverty’.
‘No More Poverty’ brings together many of my passions for charity work. I’ve worked with the UN for a number of years now and this goal, which seeks to eradicate extreme poverty for everyone everywhere by 2030 particularly struck a chord with me. Sub-Sahara Africa is one of the worst affected places for poverty and my work in the region has brought me into contact first hand with the devastation this causes. Women are more likely to be affected than men too, so as a black woman, I feel deeply connected with what is happening here. However, it is not just Africa. Southern Asia and other pockets of the world are also blighted by extreme poverty and need help. We can all do more.
How did you come to be involved in the #TOGETHERBAND project?
#TOGETHERBAND is such an inspiring project that it drew me in immediately. It is unique in that it is a sustainable & luxury fashion item that spreads a positive message but also has a deeply emotive and authentic story behind its creation. The #TOGETHERBAND TAPESTRY artwork that hangs at the Alpina Gstaad Hotel represents the UN 17 Sustainable Development Goals and was my first introduction to the movement. My dear friend Nachson invited me to stay and explained to me how the tapestry was a symbol for the #TOGETHERBAND movement – made of recycled waste materials and presented beautifully in a new form. It was made by some inspiring women in Bahia, Brazil, which made me love it even more. Once I learned of the movement through Nachson and then met Cameron, the more I discovered the more I became inspired to become an advocate for this social & economic mission.
Nachson Mimran is pleased that he is able to combine his role at the Alpina Gstaad Hotel with his work for TO.org – an organisation and platform that instigates new solutions to existing global problems by harnessing creativity, capitalism and human connections. He has had an active involvement right since the start of #TOGETHERBAND and is excited to see this latest stage of the project take shape.
Nachson, tell us more insights about the tapestry artwork, who commissioned it?
The #TOGETHERBAND tapestry is an icon for the #TOGETHERBAND campaign and the 17 Sustainable Development Goals established in 2015 by the United Nations General Assembly. Originally commissioned for the General Assembly in 2018 and designed by British artists, the tapestry is made of upcycled tabs from cans collected on the streets of Salvador, Brazil, that artisans at Bottletop’s Salvador atelier polished and hand-painted in the rainbow of #TOGETHERBAND colors representing the 17 Goals.
Since its launch, the tapestry has been displayed in New York at the 2018 Gates Foundation Goalkeepers event and most recently at the United Nations for the Global Compact High-Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development. It was also on display at this year’s Glastonbury Festival in England, at Art Basel and Brazil’s Inhotim Museum, and at Davos House during the 2019 World Economic Forum Annual Meeting.
As an icon for the #TOGETHERBAND campaign, the tapestry symbolizes the rising social and environmental global consciousness expressed in the 17 Sustainable Development Goals; it is a brilliant example of how art can be used to broadcast a powerful message that inspires action.
How can art influence the world for good?
At TO.org we invest in people who use innovation and creativity to address global social and environmental challenges. There is no question that the world’s poorest will be hardest hit by climate change and we all share the responsibility of working together to solve social, economic, and environmental inequality. To that end, the TO.org platform harnesses creativity and human connection. We support founders who pursue sustainable and creative solutions to global problems, and creative activists who use innovative methods to tackle social and structural challenges in their communities.
Art and creativity have the power to open up the world, creating links between cultures and communities, and a deep sense of togetherness that instigates collective action. I believe we are all one, people with a shared responsibility to protect each other and our planet, a personal philosophy that resonates in some of the most important pieces of contemporary art. Our art collection at our hotel The Alpina Gstaad, in which the #TOGETHERBAND tapestry is a centerpiece, is carefully curated to encourage our guests to think about how they might contribute to positive global change.
When I first met Cameron in London in 2014, his striking commitment to the pursuit of positive change made Bottletop a natural fit for the TO.org portfolio. Since then we have established a global #TOGETHERBAND movement and TO.org has gathered a diverse array of Creative Activists who support the #TOGETHERBAND campaign, ranging from our treasured friend Naomi to our team in Ugandan ghettos and refugee settlements, all broadcasting their commitment to the 17 Sustainable Development Goals. The #TOGETHERBAND tapestry and bands have become an instantly recognizable symbol of this commitment, and a model for how sustainable art and fashion can influence the world for good.
Cameron Saul co-founded BOTTLETOP with his business partner Oliver Wayman. This high-end British fashion brand proves that creativity and sustainability can thrive together. Its chain mail fabric fashioned from upcycled ring pulls has become its signature statement demonstrating that beauty lies in the things that we so casually discard.
Cameron, #TOGETHERBAND has become a success from day one of the campaign launch which took place on Earth Day in April 2019. Tell us more about the initial idea and about the great teamwork behind it.
We are thrilled with the reaction to #TOGETHERBAND and excited to see so many people engaging with the Global Goals through the campaign. The idea began in September 2015, at the BOTTLETOP launch of a design collaboration with Kenyan artist Wangechi Mutu in support of LGBTQ rights in Africa during New York Fashion Week where UN Deputy Secretary General Amina J Mohammed joined us. We learned about the Global Goals and later connected with the UN Foundation.
BOTTLETOP uses beautiful sustainable design and creative culture to help people engage with development issues and drive social and environmental impact. This fitted perfectly with #TOGETHERBAND. Engaging the world with the Global Goals is a huge challenge. With 17 of them, and the breadth of scope, they can feel distant and remote for people. We worked to humanise them and empower the general public to be their champion How? Simply to ask everyone to choose the Global Goal that is closest to their heart. We then give everyone a second band to share with someone special.
The composition of the bands and how we make them are critical to us. We use raw materials sourced from decommissioned illegal firearm metal and upcycled ocean plastic and employ marginalised women working as artisans in Nepal and Brazil.
Another great challenge is how to tell millions of people around the world about this complex plan of action. We set out to curate groups of high-profile global Ambassadors for each of the Goals; inviting them to talk about why that Goal matters to them – and crucially – to invite them to share their second band with someone special. This has worked well in spreading the campaign message and the global Goals – leveraging social media for good.
Nachson and Arieh from to.org have been major supporters of our work at BOTTLETOP and we shared the concept with them at an early stage. Working with us as co-creators, they boosted our efforts with their experience and networks. To launch #TOGETHERBAND on an international scale required a partner with a global brand echoing our vision and values. As a world leaders in sustainable investing and smart philanthropy, UBS was an ideal fit. The Chief Marketing Officer of UBS, Johan Jervoe, immediately grasped the concept and wanted to leverage the bank’s weight and reach to galvanize further support for #TOGETHERBAND. The UBS Optimus Foundation is now a strategic partner in the campaign and works with us to identify best in class NGO’s to advance the Goals and deliver maximum benefit from the funds raised.
What can we expect from the #TOGETHERBAND campaign in the months to come?
#TOGETHERBAND will continue to surprise and excite people using the vehicle of culture in all its forms to engage people in the conversation around each of these critical subject areas. We will launch our Contemporary Art Series, to explore each of the Goals through the lens and methodologies of world leading contemporary artists, while staging regular #TOGETHERBAND live events at key cultural moments. Our aim is to grow the enthusiasm for our ideas and blend well with the frontline of charity activity as we fight to build a better world. Stay tuned and please join us!
There is a growing realization that casual indifference to the issues facing both people and planet cannot continue. The UN has worked to set out a program for sustainability looking ahead to 2030. You can discover more information at un.org by following the link to “Sustainable Development Goals”. #TOGETHERBAND is already playing its part in this drive for change. It’s easy to become involved and show how you share the commitment. Just go to togetherband.org to find out much more.