Category Archives: Chamula

A Radical Shift Toward the Future


Chiapan women showing their handiwork for Abrazo Style


Catalog images of finished piece.

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 of Oaxaca and Chiapas, Mexico.

As Abrazo Style grows we have confronted challenges that would make any ordinary fashion apparel company lock their doors and throw away the key. After all, it would be so much easier to just go to China to produce a blouse 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 large customers whose 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 InStyle magazine.

As you might guess, Abrazo is evolving. Though our passion remains traveling the backroads of Mexico to 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 embroidered, and designed in 4 sizes for American 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.

1 Comment

Filed under About Abrazo Style, About Latin Threads Trading Co., Chamula, Chiapas, embroidery, Fair Trade, Indigenous Culture, Indigenous Mexican women, Maya, Mexican blouses, Mexican textiles, Mexico, travel/shopping in Mexico, WBTW, Women Artisans


Meeling with her patterns before sending them off the to ladies of Oaxaca and Chiapas.

Yes, I feel a revolution coming on!

After weeks of planning and testing, at last we have patterns to deliver to the indigenous ladies of Oaxaca and Chiapas! Wow, what a process. I never realized how little I knew about the subtleties of clothing until we started designing these blouses. Who would think a quarter inch here or there would make such a difference in fit or that cutting fabric one direction or the other would determine the way the garment lies on the body…yikes, was I in over my head. But fortunately, with the expert guidance of Meeling, a seasoned pattern maker, I am proud to say we have results that are classic, simple, and perfectly compatible with the spectacular embroidery of these women.

Despite their vast knowledge of textiles, the indigenous ladies of Oaxaca and Chiapas have not known tailoring as a part of their ancient traditions. This explains to a large extent the “box” fit of the delicate and intricate blouses they produce. It is ironic because their hand work is so extraordinarily fine yet the blouse they stitch is assembled with only the most rudimentary knowledge of sewing. It seems to be simply a lack of exposure to modern tailoring conventions that limits the success of the garment. We will be testing these patterns with small groups of women this week and will report back soon. Stay tuned!


1 Comment

Filed under Aguacatenango, Chamula, Chiapas, Fair Trade, Indigenous Mexican women, Mexican blouses, Mexican textiles, Mexico, Oaxaca, Textiles Oaxaca, Women Artisans

Mud, Rain and Beautiful Things.

It is early morning here in San Cristobal de las Casas, Chiapas. The roosters are crowing and we awake to another soggy day of rain,  swollen rivers, and gorgeous blouses. All this rain has been challenging for walking the markets and for the women from the remote pueblos to come into town to deliver their work. Some have come in on collectivo buses as far as possible, then walked the remainder of the distance due to mud slides, etc.

Pascuala and her delightful three daughters  brought us some SPECTACULAR new work which is light, delicate and airy. WOW are they talented! They embroider in their traditional Chamula style, typically chain stitches and more geometric style forms. Buttons are made from tight little balls of fabric wrapped in another fabric and button “holes” made from braided or crocheted thread.

Catalina, on the other hand delivered fabulous work made by herself and her four daughters in the Aguacatenango style of embroidery, typically floral patterns with leaves and lovely details. ( some of our “Rococo” blouses come from them).

There is a lot of effort involved in working directly with artisans but the payback is enormous knowing they are receiving regular, fair pay for their work. They can be fierce negotiators (exhausting!) and we have more than once had embarrassing cultural miscommunications but we always finish with smiles all around.

They are very dependable, though communication is always challenging,  many have no telephone and most do not know how to read or write. But, what beautiful language they speak so eloquently with a needle and thread….

Look for photos in a day or so when I will have time to upload.

Back to Oaxaca tonight on the night bus (12 hours!)…hopefully all our bags will fit!

Leave a comment

Filed under Aguacatenango, Chamula, Chiapas, Indigenous Mexican women, Mexican blouses, Mexican textiles, San Cristobal de Las Casas, travel/shopping in Mexico, Uncategorized, Women Artisans