As the name suggests, Wilderness Bazaar is a place to discover all kinds of pieces whose origins lie off the beaten track. Founder and designer Leeyong Soo loves learning about handcrafts and textiles from all over the world and aims to combine traditional techniques with a contemporary aesthetic to create unique designs which will provide an income for artisans in developing nations.
Leeyong became interested in the fair trade movement while working at Japanese Vogue magazine in Tokyo, and initiated a collaboration between the magazine, international fashion designers and Fairtrade company People Tree to produce a range of fashion. Returning to her home city of Melbourne, her involvement continued in the form of fashion shows for fair trade festivals. It was through these festivals that she met Boby Vosinthavong, whose mother, Kommaly Chanthavong, founded Mulberries, the first fair trade company in Laos. Leeyong started visiting Kommaly and her family in Laos with a view to establishing her own fair trade fashion and accessories business.
Wilderness Bazaar launched with a range of earrings from Ban Napia, Laos, made from scrap metal including bomb casings - Laos is the most heavily bombed country per capita in the world, and Xieng Khouang province in which Ban Napia is situated was particularly badly affected. However, the villagers there have made the best of a horrific situation by melting down scrap metal and turning it into spoons, key rings and bangles which are sold around the country. On a visit to Ban Napia while staying at Mulberries' rural base, Leeyong was inspired to start a partnership creating jewellery with the villagers - and Wilderness Bazaar was born.
These photos were taken in Ban Napia and show the bombs and products made by melting the casings down, and one of the villagers, Mrs Phet, in the process of creating spoons by pouring molten aluminium into a brick mould.