Ananda Soul is an ethically produced jewelry and clothing label based in Ubud, Bali that is centered on ethical fashion and conscious consumerism. The founder of Ananda Soul, Christina Zipperlen, created the company in 2008 to share her spiritual encounters in the form of wearable art. All of the products are sustainable and made with recycled, low— impact materials in order to encourage customers to make buying decisions that have a positive impact on both the planet and other people.
See below for a Q & A with the founder of Ananda Soul, Christina Zipperlen.
How did Ananda Soul’s story begin?
You know those moments when you look back at your life and it finally all makes sense? The job you took that never felt like that ‘final step’, the place you moved to, knowing it would be a ‘stepping stone’, the challenging experience that you knew deep down was happening for a reason. Well, that moment for me was when my company, Ananda Soul, birthed itself. I had moved to Bali, Indonesia in the spring of 2009 and knew immediately that this place was home. Ananda Soul came about shortly after and is the expression of my passion for empowering women, living sustainably, changing the fashion world and ideas around the female body image, and expressing my art and spirituality in a palpable medium that makes women feel beautiful. I feel beyond honored to work with the most talented artisans, sharing the same passion for art and jewelry and introducing new, sustainable forms of production into their lives.
Your jewelry pieces are absolutely beautiful! Tell us a little about the inspirations behind your designs!
Well first of all, thank you!!
To be honest, the miracle of life in this precious human body on a planet that continues to amaze me is the main source of inspiration for my work. Living in Bali, an extremely mystical and spiritual place, most certainly has influenced me tremendously, along with my continuous spiritual studies and practices. Everywhere you look in Bali, there are flower offerings, delicate ornaments, statues and temples, all of which have infiltrated my artistic expressions.
At the same time, there isn’t beauty everywhere you look. The other common sight on this stunning island is the overwhelming amount of plastic and rubbish in the rivers, rice fields and pathways.
Living in a developing country where clean water is not readily available at all times and where we are drowning in trash (or coughing from burning plastic) makes it impossible to overlook the frightening effects mass consumerism and unsustainable practices have on our planet. So this horrifying truth is the other inspiration for my designs: while creating beautiful pieces, I also want to create awareness about conscious consumerism.
In order to make a difference, we need to become mindful about the products we purchase, how they are made and what they are made of, along with a deeper understanding of why we are buying them in the first place and if we really need them (or if we are just trying to fill a hole that might be more sweetly filled with human interaction).
Tell us how you trace each step of your ethical production cycle and how you are able to keep such a close eye on where all your materials are coming from.
When I started this company, I had no idea how dirty this industry was. The deeper I got into the rabbit hole of jewelry and clothing production, the more committed I was to running this company in a green and sustainable way. At Ananda Soul, we look into each component of our designs and trace its origin as far back as possible. For example, our silver is sourced from an Italian company that refines their metals using environmentally safe practices. The majority of our gemstones are sourced from another Italian supplier, who only purchases rough materials from certified small companies and family businesses, guaranteeing good work conditions with minimal impact on the land and the neighboring communities.
The remainder of our gemstones (mostly our beads and large stones) come from an Indian family business whose cutters work under ethical conditions. When it comes to our clothing, all our designs are made from certified organic cotton, sourced from a company in Java, Indonesia and locally dyed with a Bali-based company that only uses plant-based dyes. In terms of our local production, we are working with three different production houses who are as committed to ethical work practices as we are. They comply with fair trade work conditions, offering fair work hours, paid leave, medical and life insurance, and even accommodation for non-local team members along with a daycare for working mothers.
In terms of our packaging, we minimize the use of plastic and use recycled paper along with organic fabrics where possible. Bali is home, where I spend the majority of the year and a large portion of that time is spent with my team in the workshop and our office. Bali is a very community-based culture and keeping a company happy means creating family culture with a content team. I can happily say that our team feels like family.
How did you go about creating such relationships with street children and their mothers?
The moment I started this business – as an artist/yoga teacher, this was definitely not the future I had imagined – there was no question in my mind that we would be giving back to the local community and more specifically, to the women and children. Just a few months into starting Ananda Soul, my friend connected me with the founder of an organization here in Bali that had just opened a small school for street children along with a small workshop for the mothers of these kids. At first we simply donated a portion of our proceeds to the organization, but we quickly realized that there was a greater need to create a livelihood for the mothers. That was when our Soul bracelets and other braided bracelets made by the moms came about. Along with selling these products in our stores, we also give a free bracelet to our customers, guaranteeing continuous orders and employment for the moms.
How does your “giving back” model work?
One of our ‘giving back’ models is the moms project, as described above. Our products are locally produced, empowering Balinese artists and we also work with a few single mothers who sew the pouches and bags for our packaging. We are mindful about each element of our creations, continuously checking how we can give back more.
Are you working on the ground in Bali or do you have a local team assisting you with Ananda Soul?
I moved to Bali in 2009 and spend most of my year here (apart from my yearly trip to see my family in Germany and visit friends in the US). That being said, I do have an amazing local team assisting me with Ananda Soul – helping me with production, distribution and our two local boutiques.