Tag Archives: socially responsible clothing

Out of the Box

Abrazo Style Rococo Tee chambrayAbrazo Style drawing1I started this post some time ago and as I finish it, I am reminded (mostly by others), that I need to pause to look back at how far we’ve come. I’m not very good at that but when I do take a moment I see a business with a growing number of passionate people who together are creating an exceptional collection of high quality, socially responsible, handcrafted apparel and accessories, despite the odds.

Our successes (and failures) over the past year resonate with the recurring theme of problem solving in virtually every aspect of what we do. Thinking out of the box (not recommended for those who aren’t in it for the adventure) is a prerequisite and patience, persistence and creativity in navigating cultures is the only way to get things done.

Abrazo Style Oaxaca artisan Carmen weaving a scarf by hand.Abrazo Style Laura Carmen ScarfIn fact, recently, while driving down the road in Oaxaca contemplating where and how we were going to source the new plastic we needed for our totes after months of dead ends, it dawned on me while waiting at a traffic light that the truck in front of me was covered in signs advertising recycled plastic. I grabbed a pen and quickly wrote down the phone number on my hand as the light turned green. That evening I called the number, and miraculously, I was connected with someone who knew someone who could help. This is how we roll in Mexico. No amount of Google searches, phone books or even legwork will guarantee success.

We have experienced a rather stunning array of unpleasant surprises in this last year, comprised of tales from which great novels are written. Everything from jealous mistresses to corrupt government officials, plastic Abrazo Style White Cream Floral Lupe crop 2photo 2-3cartels to prolonged village fiestas have crossed our path and threatened our existence. Out of necessity we have invented our own manufacturing processes and sometimes even the materials to make our products. But here we are, another year under our belt, stronger, and growing steadily, despite the odds. We continue to learn, sometimes stumbling, occasionally flying, building Abrazo Style, brick by brick.

Looking back, yes, I see we have accomplished a lot but mostly I see the women, growing and learning, gaining greater self-confidence, happiness, and sustainability. That’s what makes all the rest of this crazy adventure worthwhile.

And rounding out this year, I would also like to thank Celina, my erstwhile assistant in Mexico (who has been


with me almost since the beginning), for all of her hard work, dedication and commitment to this venture as she leaves Abrazo for a new direction in her career.


Look for us on Facebook, Pinterest, and Instagram as Abrazo Style



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Filed under About Abrazo Style, Doing Business in Mexico, embroidery, Fair Trade, Indigenous Culture, Indigenous Mexican women, Living in Mexico, Mexican blouses, Mexican textiles, Mexico, Oaxaca, Social enterprise, Textiles Oaxaca, travel/shopping in Mexico, WBTW, Women Artisans

The Embroidered Box

The simple and beautiful Rococo-tee blouse, before modifying it.

A couple of weeks ago, Celina, my assistant in Oaxaca, informed me that a shipment of blouses we had been waiting for from Chiapas, Mexico had arrived. This was exciting for two reasons:

First, the women who make them live in a very remote pueblo where there are no phones and so our contact with them is difficult.

Second, we had asked them to make the blouses in a special way for us.

By “special” I mean we asked for them to NOT sew certain parts of the blouses together. I know that sounds odd but we

The possibilities are endless for what we can do with a diamond in the rough....

had been having such challenges with consistency in the construction of the blouses that we had decided it would be easier to finish them in Oaxaca with women we trained.

So, these blouses were to have the basic box shape, neck hole, and embroidered front with  sides unsewn. Well, the blouses did come in as we had ordered with a little “bonus”…..what looked to be a large bite taken out of the sides of each blouse (maybe done with a knife?). When asked, it turns out they were trying to “help” us in determining where to stitch the arm hole…..sigh…..

That little added “detail” to the blouse altered the way we had to finish it, but in the end, we came up with something beautiful.

Consistency in sizing and patterning remains a huge challenge in these regions. In reality, these concepts are very foreign to indigenous artisans in Oaxaca and Chiapas, which seems especially odd considering how textile traditions have dominated these cultures for centuries.

So, we take the hard part out of the equation and deliver blouses that are sized and well adapted to our American bodies for them to embroider. Easy, RIGHT?

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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, WBTW, Women Artisans

A Few of my Favorite Things in San Cristobal de las Casas, Chiapas

This is by no means a “top 10” list (maybe we’ll just start with 5) but these are some of the things I love to do/eat on my regular

Shopping! My favorite thing...

trips to San Cristobal for our work with  indigenous artisans from the highlands. ( I will be back there in a week and no doubt will have more to add…)

1. Wander. It is such an amazing city, well preserved from colonial times with high points to climb to, back streets to explore, and unprecedented people watching…The indigenous people (the majority of the population), especially the women, still dress in traditional clothing of their villages. Men from the warmer lowlands walk the chilly high altitude streets  bare-legged in hand woven tunics, and those from high altitudes walk the same streets in furry, sheep felt rugs that look like bear skins. —very fun and challenging to sort by their costumes, (see http://bit.ly/yBfkUg    for a fabulous lo res pdf book about these people and their textiles by Chip Morris, currently only available at Na Bolom museum/B&B in San Cristobal).

2. Eat French pastries. Not to be missed on the Real Guadalupe, made by real French people!

3. Cruise the markets… WOW! Santo Domingo (every day though the government is threatening to relocate it), the Mercado de Dulces (an indoor sweets and craft market, great on any day but especially rainy days) are the two big ones.

4. Slurp frozen yogurt sticks at the creamery (right) off of Real Guadalupe where there is also a daily vegetable market, hmm, near where the walking street ends).

5. Visit the locals market. (You can find it in any guide book) Huge and full of interesting things to see, but, like any market, be vigilante for pick pockets, etc. and be careful about taking photos. Many people take great offense at taking pictures of them or even their wares. Ask (you will probably have to pay) but even if you just wander through, it is fascinating.

More stories and pictures in a few weeks!


Filed under Chiapas, Indigenous Culture, Indigenous Mexican women, Living in Mexico, Mexican Holidays, Mexican textiles, Mexico, San Cristobal de Las Casas, travel/shopping in Mexico, WBTW, Women Artisans

The Practice of Stitches, Patience, and Cooperation

The first meeting of the group.

Several months ago, with the support of a small non profit group called AYUDA, the ladies of San Pablo Etla began embroidery classes. It was their decision. The non profit asked me what the group needed and I had my own idea. I thought it would be fantastic for the women to learn to sew on sewing machines and to create clothing (as well as embroidery) to sell. More skills, more income, right? Well, I was pretty off base. When my assistant, Celina, and I had a meeting with the group to discuss the modest funding AYUDA was offering, I gave them my suggestion of what we could do with the money. They nervously looked at one another until one of them spoke up. “What we really want to is to be the best ‘bordadoras’

Abigail, Marta's daughter, joins in the class for fun.

“(embroiderers). They said they “had so much to learn” and wanted to improve upon the skills they were building. Only later would it come out that they were also intimidated to take this on for fear of failure.

What has transpired over the past months has been very interesting. The teacher for the group (a young and very congenial local woman) who has an impressive repertoire of stitches, started the group on some of the more difficult stitches (at their request) and they are moving through them with great enthusiasm. Of the 8 or so women we started with, several have dropped out due to jealousy and envy (a common theme in my blog), but others have made remarkable improvement and are now taking on more difficult embroidery projects. Though their work is not yet at the level of the women of Chiapas who have embroidered for generations*, they are developing a beautiful, consistent style which we will be introducing online this spring in our new beach cover up.

Word has it that a few of the women are interested in trying the sewing machine now but they remain intimidated by the machine and are afraid of breaking it. We will see what develops on this front.The challenge remains to continue to supply these women with work so that they can continue to develop their skills and provide for their families.

On a parting note, Marta, our star of San Pablo, actually paid for the addition of a bedroom to their home from the money she earned embroidering. Humble though it may be (made from corrugated metal with a dirt floor), the pride in her face was obvious when she showed us around. Of course, for fear of shaming her husband, she didn’t mention who paid for it. Celina just whispered the great news to me as we were leaving.

*In fact, a number of the families we work with in Chiapas actually have 4 generations of women sewing in the family.

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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, San Pablo Etla, Textiles Oaxaca, 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!

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.


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