Tag Archives: indigenous artisans

A Radical Shift Toward the Future

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Chiapan women showing their handiwork for Abrazo Style

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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.

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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

In Pursuit of the Holy Grail….Information

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

Catalina delivering blouses from her village.

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?”

Answer: “No”

Or: “Have you seen this fabric before?”

Answer: “Maybe.”

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.

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

Huipiles and Whirlwinds

It has been awhile and there is much to catch up on with stories of our travels, the evolution of Latin Threads into our new brand, ABRAZOstyle, and of course, updates on our artisans! As we are busier now than ever, I’m afraid I have fallen behind with sharing our journey, my apologies. Please indulge me for a few more weeks, until the holidays, and I will catch up with more news.

Meanwhile, for those of you interested in learning more about the history of the huipil, here is a short description for you. If you are curious to learn more, below I’ve included a link to a fabulous new book about the textiles of the Chiapan highlands. A smaller version of the book with be coming out on Amazon around January.

Hasta pronto!
Adele

The huipil, a pre-columbian garment pervasive in Mezo America, can best be described as the canvas on which the wearer weaves her or his identity. It is a simple garment made from rectangular pieces of fabric woven on a back-strap loom, which are then folded in half and stitched together with a hole in the middle. Simple in construction but complex in its symbolism, each huipil portrays the celebration of daily life, honors the earth, the gods, the saints, and is a unique and personal statement about its maker. One can determine where the wearer is from, their marital status and even their religious beliefs at a glance.
The tradition of the huipil has been passed from generation to generation, with periods of great artistic flowering, as well as periods when the tradition was at risk of being lost forever. Today, the Mayan textile culture continues to thrive. Styles, colors, and techniques continue to evolve despite the move toward modernity that is ever more prevalent in villages throughout Chiapas and elsewhere in the Mayan world.

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Rosita threading her back-strap loom in San Cristobal de las Casas, Chiapas, Mexico

– https://docs.google.com/viewer?a=v&pid=explorer&chrome=true&srcid=0B0f-9JoAPGuCNDNlMTYyMDItYTYwNC00MzViLWIyMDAtODU0YzYyZWQ4Y2M0&hl=en_US <https://docs.google.com/viewer?a=v&pid=explorer&chrome=true&srcid=0B0f-9JoAPGuCNDNlMTYyMDItYTYwNC00MzViLWIyMDAtODU0YzYyZWQ4Y2M0&hl=en_US>

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Filed under About Latin Threads Trading Co., Indigenous Culture, Indigenous Mexican women, Living in Mexico, Mexican blouses, Mexican textiles, Mexico, San Cristobal de Las Casas, Textiles Oaxaca, Women Artisans