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designer on fire


November 2014

Written by
Lauren Hunsberger


Elizabeth RungThe clothing and jewelry line Kupu-Kupu is currently sold in Changes boutique, located in the lower level of the Bellevue Club. Its origins, however, date back 20 years and halfway around the world.    

When she was in her mid-20s, owner and designer Elizabeth Rung was working with a group of artists in Pike Place Market and studying to get a degree in fashion merchandising from The Art Institute of Seattle. During this time, she met and befriended a few European artists. “That’s what sparked me to want to travel. I ended up in India, loving it. … And I never turned back,” Rung says.

While in India, Rung says she fell in love with the lifestyle and culture and was inspired by “how creative, artistic and colorful—super colorful—they are, which translates into how they dress.” 

Determined to find a way to make a living with the freedom to travel, Rung made her way to Europe, ultimately ending up in Berlin where there were bustling summer and Christmas-time open markets to sell the “techno party clothes” she had begun to design.

That’s when Rung figured out a system that worked for her. She traveled to Goa, India or Nepal for part of the year to source materials and work with skilled locals to create her clothing. She then sold some of the inventory in the markets there, sent some home to her mother, and returned to Europe for the other part of the year to sell the rest.   

Kupu Kupu jewelryRung says it was an exciting lifestyle for many years but also a taxing way of life. “India was okay because I hardly needed anything to get by, but when it was time to go to Europe and exchange the money I’d go to Saturday market and wouldn’t even have money to pay for my market stall. I’d tell them to come back at the end of the day,” she says. “But I had the energy, and it always worked out.”

Although she now spends significantly more time in the United States, she still often travels to Europe, India, Bangkok and Bali, where she was inspired to create her latest pieces—jewelry made from holy lava.

“It’s porous and rough and black, and I realized nobody is making jewelry with it, with big hunks of it like this,” Rung says. All of the pieces are custom and one of a kind. She says she works with a silversmith in Bali who hand hammers all the silver and helps her with the lava.

“The first time I went out to meet him, his wife and kids, and I gave him my ideas, and he showed me these hunks of lava from the temple, and each piece is different, and then he sands them each differently too,” she says.

Right now Changes is the exclusive retailer of both the lava pieces as well as the rest of the Kupu-Kupu line (meaning butterfly in Indonesian), which includes clothing and handbags. 

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