Claudia Portugal ’20

Article22, Brooklyn, NY

From left to right: Kelly Bullen, Victoria Michalska ’22, me, and Camille Hautefort
From left to right: Kelly Bullen, Victoria Michalska ’22, me, and
Camille Hautefort

This summer, I had the incredible opportunity to intern at Article22, a sustainable and ethical jewelry brand based in Brooklyn. At the intersection of art, activism, and sustainability, this innovative brand was founded by Williams alumna Elizabeth Suda ’05. When Elizabeth traveled to Laos to research textile production, she came across local artisans repurposing war shrapnel from the Vietnam War into spoons. Inspired by this symbol of positive transformation, the idea for Article22 was born. The brand works directly with Laotian artisans who craft aluminum and scrap metal into Article22 designs, empowering these artisan communities while creating a global platform to shed light on the Secret War in Laos and its toll on the Laotian people.

My role as Content Creation and Social Media Intern was based in the company’s Greenpoint studio, an inspiring place to work. The studio is located in a refurbished warehouse housing all kinds of creatives, such as design studios, production firms, and architects. I really enjoyed experiencing this kind of alternate office space, a contrast from the more corporate setting I worked in last summer. The Article22 studio made for a casual yet no less professional work environment, allowing for creativity and collaboration. However, this positive work culture stemmed primarily from the powerful women at the helm. Elizabeth Suda, Camille Hautefort, and Kelly Bullen are the three fearless leaders of the brand, and I felt fortunate to collaborate with them on a daily basis. This is one of the benefits of interning for a small business; I worked directly with the founders and leaders of the company, had a personal stake in the work, and was given great responsibility.

Because the Article22 team is small in size, I was entrusted with a broad range of responsibilities that varied from day to day. One of my main jobs was to shoot photographs of products and influencers for various communications and social media. This presented a valuable opportunity for me to apply my passion for photography to a professional setting. I was given great creative freedom with the work; while I collaborated with Elizabeth in terms of her aesthetic preferences and the specific products she wanted to feature, I assumed roles beyond that of photographer, such as art director, lighting assistant, and prop stylist. Through setting up shoots and deciding the overall look and feel of the images, I gained hands-on experience in the entire process of editorial photography.

Photoshoot with Ryann Richardson, tech entrepreneur and current Ms. Black America
Photoshoot with Ryann Richardson, tech
entrepreneur and current Ms. Black America

In addition to shooting product, I was also tasked with a portraiture project. I traveled all over New York City to meet and photograph inspiring individuals whose personal journeys resonate with the Article22 mission. I then used these stories and photographs to create blog posts for the Article22 website. Through this project, I experienced some of the most unique and rewarding moments of my internship. For example, I photographed Alex Hiniker, the Urban Action and Strategic Relationships Manager for the New York City Mayor’s Office of International Affairs. The shoot took place in the United Nations headquarters where Alex worked previously; she even gave me a tour of the building while we chatted about her humanitarian work. I also photographed Ryann Richardson, tech entrepreneur and current Ms. Black America, at her home in Bed Stuy. It was such a cool experience to learn about her career and current projects, and so much fun to photograph someone comfortable in front of the camera. Working with these individuals allowed me to expand my worldview and opened my eyes to a variety of careers that make positive impact.

I was also responsible for planning and posting content to social media. I learned how to use tools such as Planoly to map out future Instagram posts, as well as how to analyze engagement on social platforms. I also maintained a detailed marketing calendar that tracked all promotions, posts, and special events. One fun event I attended was the National Jazz Museum of Harlem’s annual gala, where Article22 sold a custom piece created for the event. I documented the evening by posting Instagram stories and photographing attendees who purchased Article22 pieces. As with the portraiture series, this was a great opportunity to connect with customers and the community.

Article22 as a brand and business deeply inspires me. Though small in size, everyone on the team is deeply committed to the brand’s success, a dedication that derives from its humanitarian mission. The work environment felt young and scrappy with a do-it-yourself mindset, which created a culture of creativity and openness. This kind of environment was the perfect setting for learning new skills quickly. The work of running a small business is broad in scope and varies daily, so I gained experience in a wide variety of tasks. From web design to reading social media analytics, to taking product inventory and shooting photographs, I learned first-hand that entrepreneurship requires well-rounded and versatile individuals.

Taking inventory. All Article22 jewelry is made from war shrapnel leftover from the Secret War in Laos
Taking inventory. All Article22 jewelry is made from
war shrapnel leftover from the Secret War in Laos

The mission of Article22 speaks volumes and successfully draws customers on a global scale. Article22 
symbolizes positive transformation, taking the remnants of a violent and painful past in Laos and transforming them into pieces of beauty. Article22 creates tangible impact in many ways, expanding the scope of what fashion and a jewelry brand in particular can accomplish. Article22 employs local Laotian artisans, partners with the Mines Advisory group to clear land in Laos of unexploded ordinance, raises awareness of the Secret War in Laos, and ultimately shares a beautiful and sustainable product with the world. I am personally very inspired by Elizabeth Suda’s vision and courage to start her own business, combining her passions for fashion, activism, and sustainability. As I begin to explore my own career path after Williams, Elizabeth 
Suda and Article22 serve as powerful examples of what is possible if you follow your instincts and forge your own path. Working alongside this team of powerful women has proved to me that it is possible to combine personal passions into a career to create positive change. I would like to thank the ’68 Center for Career Exploration and Mr. William F. McCalpin ’79 for sponsoring this amazing opportunity. I am truly grateful for your role in making this enriching internship experience at Article22 possible, an experience that will certainly continue to shape my career path after Williams.