A Kind Voice radio interviews our founder, Adele Hammond, about social entrepreneurship, fair trade, and what it takes to create handcrafted apparel and accessories for women in Oaxaca and Chiapas, Mexico.
Category Archives: Fair Trade
It is an interesting conundrum building a business in a world where seasonal colors, tight delivery deadlines and demanding standards for consistency collide with the alternate reality of tradition and rural life of indigenous artisans ofand .
As Abrazo Style grows we have confronted challenges that would make any ordinary fashioncompany lock their doors and throw away the key. After all, it would be so much easier to just go to to produce a that would have convincing embroidery, consistency, and proper sizing. But for anyone who knows what we do, the process, the mission, and the result are intimately tied together.
Since my last post, we have taken on several very largewhose names I don’t think I’m allowed to mention. One of them understands our mission and has been absolutely amazing in their patience while we “figured out” how to adapt the handmade blouse they chose for their catalog into a “production” blouse with 4 sizes and a consistent embroidery design. How hard could that be, right? Well, pretty hard, as it turns out. A different customer chose one of our totes for their high end apparel and accessories line and we were faced with reproducing EXACT designs for them on a very tight deadline. Fortunately, we were successful and the tote even made it into this month’s .
As you might guess, Abrazo is evolving. Though our passion remains traveling the backroads ofto discover the one-of-a-kind treasures our customers love, we are also inspired to reinvent tradition with an updated process and a line of clothing that is machine sewn, hand , and designed in 4 sizes for bodies. So far, the ladies in Oaxaca and Chiapas love it and so do our US customers.
Our process may be evolving but women still work in their homes and their lives remain fundamentally the same with the exception that they are becoming more economically stable.
We, along with our artisans are challenged to make intimidating and unfamiliar changes in the future in order to grow, but so far we are making good progress (with the exception of some occasional VERY large bumps in the road ;-).
Straddling two worlds, centuries apart, with a shared goal of success requires perserverance and above all, a great sense of humor.
If you read this blog you are familiar with my stories of the challenges involved in doing business in a foreign culture, especially in a developing country. Communication with the indigenous artisans we
work with is often fraught with misunderstandings and assumptions about time, quality standards, commitment, and trust. The results are often comical, and in the end, we almost always compromise and move on with faith that we are all learning.
However, there’s another ongoing, rather curious challenge: our quest for new information and people’s willingness to share it.
Question: “Have you seen this blouse before?”
Answer: “I couldn’t say.”
Question: “We were told Rosita Ortiz made it. Do you know her?”
Answer: “Ah, I don’t know.”
Question: Do you know anyone who could help us find her?”
Or: “Have you seen this fabric before?”
Question: “Do you know where we can buy this fabric?”
Answer: “No idea.”
And so it goes.
In general, the artisans we work with in Oaxaca and Chiapas communicate well with us in all matters concerning the work we do together except when it comes to sourcing materials or the maker of a new product we have discovered. Of course, this complicates our work immensely, as one cannot just pick up the yellow pages or Google the things we need in these rural areas. So we spend weeks tracking down the meager scraps of information we are provided, only to find, for example, that Rosita, the woman who made the blouse, is the sister-in-law of the person we originally asked, and the new fabric we are searching for is being sold only a block away behind an unmarked door.
I realized, eventually, that these roadblocks and detours are created in the interest of job security. They are driven by the understandable fear that comes from generations of poverty and the insecurity of not knowing what tomorrow may bring.
We have learned to respect this, and to expect the extra time it takes to earn the trust of the people whose skills we value highly. Working together, we can create more long-term opportunities for everyone.
Happy New Year to our friends and supporters of ABRAZOstyle/ Latin Threads! As the year closes we’d like to thank you for your ongoing interest in our work in Oaxaca and Chiapas, Mexico and give you a short update of what we’ve been up to.
My blogs have been painfully few his last year due to all the attention we have been giving to creating a market for our artisans’ work here in the States, but I will endeavor to post more in the coming year…A good New Year resolution, I’d say!
We are very excited to report that we’ve had a fantastic year with very positive growth in the company and in our circle of artisans. Our hand crafted , socially responsible clothing and accessories for the worldly woman are now found in boutiques, specialty gift stores, museum stores, high end garden stores, and even zoos on the west coast, parts of the southwest, the midwest and east coast, but there is still much to be done!
Plans for 2012 include continued growth in the communities we work with in Mexico as well as expanding into larger markets in the US.
The embroidery classes we started in October in our village of San Pablo Etla, Oaxaca have been going extraordinarily well. (See pictures) The group is now up to a maximum size of 15 members with our most advanced students producing hugely improved, beautiful work. Thank you Ayuda (the NGO sponsoring the classes). In the coming year we will be working with the women to help them to create their own designs and products to market through ABRAZO in the States.
We are also continuing to expand our work with families of women in small villages in the highlands of Chiapas. Look for some their new and traditional blouses this spring on our web site along with new designs and colors in our totes and scarves. Lots of surprises coming!
We appreciate your sharing what we do with others and, as always, we welcome your comments and suggestions!
If you are interested in following us on Facebook, just click on this link and you’ll get the latest updates as they happen!
Thank you once again for your interest and encouragement. Abrazos (hugs) from all of us and best wishes for a bright and successful year!
Adele and the ABRAZOstyle Team
Oh, I almost forgot. If you are interested in joining us in Oaxaca this year on a socially responsible shopping tour, please let us know.