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00000176-6d2a-dc2f-ad76-6d2a4efd0000The Aspen Ideas Festival is an annual week and a half long gathering that offers a variety of programs, tutorials, seminars, discussions and events that bring together vibrant intellectual exchange. Aspen Public Radio is broadcasting several of the events. If you miss it live, you can listen to them here. To check the schedule of live broadcasts this week, click here.

2017 Ideas swag bag gives back

courtesy photo

The Aspen Ideas Festival swag bag has been designed by top names in fashion, Tory Burch, Ralph Lauren and Lauren Bush Lauren.

This year, though, the bags are from a small Colorado design company: Sword and Plough.  Amanda Wiggans, program associate with the Institute works six months ahead of the festival to commission the bags.


“This year they tell a story, they definitely highlight an industry and a company that most of these attendees have probably never heard of so that’s something I’m really proud of,” said Wiggans.


One of the conference tracks this year was titled “Making it in America” and it was important to

Wiggans that the swag bag corresponded with that theme. In Sword in Plough, she also found philanthropy and sustainability.


The company, is run by Emily Nunez-Cavness and her sister Betsy, who make the bags out of surplus army supplies. The girls come from a military family. Years ago, when Nunez-Cavness was in the ROTC, she would come into contact with active duty military members who were facing meger employment opportunities once leaving the service.

Credit Alycin Bektesh / Aspen Public Radio News
Aspen Public Radio News
Long time Ideas Festival volunteers Deb Banks and Sally Reiley display this year's conference bag.

“You know they've proven themselves as leaders under stressful circumstances and they are also really technical professionals and so to hear that many of them were facing challenges finding meaningful employment just seemed like such an injustice to me,”  Nunez-Cavness  said.  


Sword and Plough now donates ten percent of profits to veteran nonprofit organizations. To provide employment opportunities, they also partners with veteran-run businesses in every stage of product manufacturing, and have a program for veterans to be brand ambassadors and make commission selling the bags.


That, in turn, helps with another mission of Sword and Plough - bridging the social gap between veterans and civilians.

The 2013 festival bag, designed by Tory Burch

“It's important to me because I know that there is such an opportunity to increase understanding. Some people just don't know another person who has served in the military and I think the more stores that can be shared to humanize other people is probably the best way in order to bridge that gap,” said  Nunez-Cavness.


Those stories have now been sent home on the shoulders of the nearly 4,000 recipients of this years' Aspen Ideas Festival bag.