We all have a different idea of what the word love really means. Sometimes it means romantic love and intimacy, sometimes it's family and friends, and sometimes it's spiritual love for a higher being.
These differences in definition are what Chrissie Lam had in mind when she created the Love Is project. Chrissie was a concept designer with American Eagle Outfitters for many years; a job that took her all over the world. Her career path gave her a desire to combine international development with design. She left American Eagle to start her own project, The Supply Change - a non-profit that brings these two worlds together.
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The first leg of the project brought Chrissie to Kenya where she began working with Masai mothers in the great river valley. Together they developed a vibrantly colored message bracelet that uses traditional Kenyan beading and bears the words Love. The beading work also gives these women a sustainable income, between 5 and 15 times more than other jobs they have access to, which greatly empowers them in their communities.
The next phase of the project would be where the real originality would have to come in. Chrissie knew that Love had been written on the Masai women's jewelry many times before, but this was going to be different. This would bring real people together to share real stories.
While on a flight to Moscow, Chrissie struck up a conversation with two girls from Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan. On a whim she decided to ask what them what love means. She was inspired by their answers and decided to take a photo of them wearing the bracelet. She posted the photo to Instagram and the Love Is project was born.
According to Chrissie, Love Is uses social media to give meaning to the message on the bracelet. All of the people in the project are genuine and they're sharing the story of what love really means in their lives. So far the project has featured 500 people representing 90 different nationalities.
The answers to this question vary a lot by country. Some cultures see love as family and community while others see it as passion for what you do in the world. It's a difficult concept to define, which is why each person's answer is so unique. Chrissie says she really enjoyed hearing the poetic expressions of everyone's description of love.
The project will continue organically but for now Chrissie is settling down in Bali after 3 and a half years traveling around the world. As her time with the project dwindles she says,
"We're grateful for the spontaneous moments, inspiring friends and strangers that have colored our different chapters of this project, opening us to the surprises, new friendships and new partnerships. We hope to celebrate love every single day. Please join us in creating the greatest love story ever told. May the stories of love inspire you as they have inspired us."
Read more about Love Is:
Refinery29: What Love Means to 37 Strangers Around the World