JungleVine Foundation Honored with Diversity Advocate Award

Iowa’s JungleVine Foundation Receives Diversity Advocate Award

New York, NY, October 5, 2020 —  NY NOW has honored the Des Moines-based nonprofit JungleVine Foundation with their prestigious Diversity Advocate Award in recognition of their work with the indigenous Khmu tribes of Northern Laos.

Twice each year buyers and sellers gather in New York City, fashion capital of the U.S., for the NY NOW trade show. This fall, show organizers created a digital market, an online forum to connect buyers and vendors while keeping everyone safe during the pandemic.

Since its inception, NY NOW has been steadfast in its dedication to promoting socially responsible products. At their October 5 digital awards show, co-hosts Patti Carpenter and Everick Brown presented special recognition awards to the brands that most exemplified these ideals in five categories; Community Impact, Emerging Brand, Sustainable Design, Best New Product, and the Diversity Advocate Award. The latter is considered the crown jewel by many, as its recipient embodies the core values of NY NOW.

"The NY NOW Diversity Advocate Award speaks to the heart and principles of what NY NOW stands for – diverse creation, thought and design,” said Brown. “We seek to honor a leader within our community of brands who has demonstrated their commitment to advancing the career of minority-owned designers and brands, by generating awareness and providing business mentorship, and/or financial backing and resources."

The JungleVine Foundation’s Nature Bag Project has worked with the Khmu for more than 15 years, promoting their handicrafts throughout the world. The products themselves are as unique as the business structure that brings them to market. Produced from a perennial vine (Pueraria phaseoloides) native to the Khmu homeland, all products marketed by the nonprofit are carbon negative. That is, they help negate some part of the environmental damage that modern society inflicts on the planet.

"Unlike most businesses, our project was never actually about doing business,” said Nature Bag Project co-founder and Iowa native Bill Newbrough. “Our entire concept was built around the ideas of preserving the cultural heritage of the Khmu tribes and providing them with the means of creating a better future for themselves without having to sacrifice their identity as a people."

The Khmu’s rich culture dates back thousands of years. Some scholars believe it to be 5,000 years old, which would make it among the most enduring cultures in the world. Most Khmu continue to live at a subsistence level, farming and foraging for their basic needs — food, medicine and fiber for a carry bag they create. Many have no monetary income aside from their earnings from making handicrafts using fiber from the vine.

Their villages are extremely remote, and it has been only within the past decade that some of the original footpaths leading to many villages have been converted to rough dirt roads, so muddy and deeply rutted during the rainy season that they are impassable for vehicles. The Khmu themselves don’t own vehicles, but some dream of owning a motorbike.

Traditionally, the Khmu used their handmade fiber bags to gather food from the fields and forests. The bags have been crucial to their survival for thousands of years. Nature Bags are famous for their beauty, handcrafted quality, and the fact that they are not only carbon neutral but carbon negative.

The availability of the Nature Bag worldwide is perfectly timed with the current urgency for sustainability in all lifestyles and combating global climate change.

JungleVine® eco-friendly products are sold in some 300 boutiques in 25 countries and territories on every continent except Antarctica, and online at Naturebag.org.

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