U.S. audiences might know actress and model Taliana Vargas from her key role in season three of Netflix’s Narcos. But away from the spotlight, Vargas is a philanthropist at heart. In Colombia, Vargas is using her star power to help disadvantaged women and children with education and job training programs through her own nonprofit. And now, she is lending her talents and passion to help Pure Earth fight pollution, thanks to her friend, designer Pili Restrepo.
“It was Pili and Pure Earth who taught me about the problem of gold mining and mercury. I had no idea how the process worked and that mercury was involved in the extraction of gold,” says Vargas.
Restrepo is one of the designers leading the way in responsible sourcing. She is also an early participant and supporter of Pure Earth’s annual responsible jewellery collection and auction. Like Vargas, Restrepo shares a strong belief in giving back. Every Pili Restrepo collection supports a different cause such a Planned Parenthood and Pure Earth.
The two friends and philanthropists united to present the 2018 Pure Earth responsible jewellery collection to help raise funds to support Pure Earth’s work around the world fighting pollution. The collection featured works from over 30 leading designers, including Retrespo.
Together, the two friends are unstoppable.
In fact, they’re already thinking ahead. They are talking about bringing some students from Vargas’ nonprofit foundation, Casa en el Arbol, to learn more about a polluted community that Pure Earth is working to clean up in Malambo, Colombia. The plan is for the students to then make a mini documentary about their experience to continue the discussion about pollution and solutions.
“We want everyone to know pollution can be cleaned up,” says Jen Marraccino, Senior Director of Development at Pure Earth.
“From the kids involved in Taliana’s foundation to the customers wearing Pili’s creations, the message is simple. Everyone can do something about pollution in their own way. Pili and Taliana are perfect examples of that. And together, we really are making a big difference.”
Taliana with Pili’s Aquilo earrings. The materials used include mercury-free, Fairmined yellow gold and above ground diamonds from the Diamond Foundry. Photo: Karla Ticas
Meet Pili Restrepo
We hope to see a shift in how people perceive gold. We hope they become more conscious about their decision making and the implications a single purchase can generate to a small community…. It takes a village to spread the message and we all must come together as a community in order to achieve our goals.
Q: Do your consumers know about the problem of mercury and gold?
A: The awareness is low and the level of concern is directly correlated to global awareness. This, I believe is due to the lack of information consumers really have access to.
Q: Colombia is one of the countries where artisanal miners use mercury to extract gold. Do people in Colombia know about the mercury being released in their country?
A: Not many.
Q: What are you doing to help raise awareness and break the connection between gold and toxic mercury?
A: We are telling the story and we are letting our customers know about our process and our mission — that we use sustainable, ethical and traceable materials. We want to know their origins, their history, and the effect they have had on issues related to their extraction and the conservation of communities around the world. This has always been a priority for us. Beyond generating a new line of jewelry, with a distinctive aesthetic and an innovative concept, we feel an important commitment regarding the source of these materials. Responsibly sourcing gold is the future. The transparency in each step will be the DNA of brands.
Q: What do you think consumers and your colleagues in the jewellery industry can and should do about the problem?
A: Teach, educate, and work together to create ways to change the course. It takes a village to spread the message and we all must come together as a community in order to achieve our goals.
Q: What drew you and Taliana to work on this responsible jewellery collection?
A: It was important for me to let Taliana know the work I’ve been doing for Pure Earth over the years, especially now that one of their main focus is Colombia. Taliana’s philanthropic work with her Fundación and my motivation to raise awareness about pollution and the harm it causes to children drew us to support this mission to the best of our abilities.
Q: How did you two meet?
A: We met seven years ago through a mutual friend. Taliana was studying at Lee Strasberg and I was starting my career in NYC as a designer.
Q: What type of changes do the both of you hope to see as a result of your work with Pure Earth?
A: More awareness, more education, and a more conscious community. We hope to see a shift in how people perceive gold. We hope they become more conscious about their decision making and the implications a single purchase can generate to a small community.
Q: What’s next for the both of you?
A: We hope this is the beginning of many more collaborations and partnerships. It is clear that both of our missions align and that we, as friends, as individuals, and as members of this world must come together to achieve our goals. We are in the middle of planning a collaboration between Pure Earth and Taliana’s foundation, Casa en el Arbol.
Q: If you had a message for your fans/friends about gold, what would that be?
A: Gold should be an honest luxury. It is should provide for many and not for only a few.
It is clear that both of our missions align and that we, as friends, as individuals, and as members of this world must come together to achieve our goals.
Taliana Vargas presents the 2018 Pure Earth responsible jewellery collection to beat pollution. Photo: Karla Ticas