Tapping Indigenous Talent in Colombia to Create Modern Fashion


On the world stage, Colombian style has turn into well-known for its subtle use of hand-wrought ancestral methods, from weaving and embroidery to beading. It isn’t unusual to see a brightly coloured Mochila bag — a staple accent for many Colombians — or a typical palm straw hat on worldwide catwalks or being worn by A-list celebrities.

With its Spanish Colonial mansions draped in bougainvillea and its centuries-old cobblestone streets, the walled metropolis of Cartagena, on the nation’s Caribbean coast, is a fascinating place to store for a spread of high-quality handmade equipment crafted by Colombia’s many artisan communities.

“While we still have a great tradition of artisans carrying on heritage handicrafts, we also have an amazing new school of designers incorporating these techniques into more modern designs,” stated Cristina Consuegra, co-founder of Galavanta, an area journey firm that curates personalised purchasing experiences from high-end boutiques to family-owned outlets.

The development of style designers collaborating with artisan expertise has flourished in half thanks to Artesanías de Colombia, a government-run group that began a program in 2015 to foster sustainable relationships between the style trade and greater than 2,000 artisans throughout the nation.

It additionally supplies entrepreneurial coaching and innovation and design labs, and it helps artisan communities by buying handicrafts which might be bought to a world market via its varied metropolis shops and its on-line store.

An introduction to Colombian handicraft may be discovered at its new boutique at La Serrezuela, an upscale mall, cultural middle and meals corridor that not too long ago opened in a former bullring and theater in the San Diego neighborhood.

The retailer is stocked with a whole bunch of handmade equipment together with luggage, hats, jewellery and residential items made by greater than 100 Indigenous communities, together with the Wayuu in La Guajira, the Arhuacos in Magdalena and the Kamëntsá in Putumayo (costs vary from 12,000 to 12 million Colombian pesos; about $3 to $3,060).

“Our products come with official seals so you know you’re getting the highest quality craft and that the artisan has been paid fairly for their work,” stated Laura Samper Blanco, communications director for Artesanías de Colombia.

In an ethereal colonial mansion in the Old City, you’ll discover St. Dom — a idea retailer owned by a Colombian, Alex Srour, and his Croatian-born spouse, Maya Memovic, that specializes in homegrown designers, lots of whom cocreate modern items with Indigenous craft masters (150,000 to 2.5 million pesos).

“When we opened 10 years ago there were no other stores like this,” Ms. Memovic stated. “Locals went to the U.S. or Europe to shop. Now they proudly wear Colombian fashion.”

Patrons can store understated Mochila luggage and clutches from the model Verdi (1.1 million to 2.7 million pesos), woven from pure supplies like plantain fibers and alpaca sourced from completely different artisan communities and formed by the arms of 45 in-house artisans at its atelier in Bogotá.

“We reinterpret ethnic designs with new materials and technique, only the shape and name remain,” stated Tomás Vera, Verdi’s co-owner and designer.

Also on provide: vibrant appliqué purses from Mola Sasa (from 890,000 pesos); Michu Bags’ colourful clutches made out of fique, a hemp-like fiber (from 750,000 pesos); and classy Woma Hats (from 400,000 pesos). The store additionally carries two manufacturers which might be identified for his or her long-term collaborations with varied teams of Indigenous artisans: Johanna Ortiz (600,000 to 2.2 million pesos) and Mercedes Salazar, whose retailer is down the road.

“As a designer, I feel it’s my responsibility to keep these ancestral techniques alive,” Ms. Salazar stated. Some of her newest collections function palma de iraca jewellery and residential equipment made with 200 Usiacurí artisans and brightly hued chaquira-beaded jewellery, made with the Emberá folks in Chocó (150,000 to 799,000 pesos).

“Working with these communities has helped me discover who I am as a designer through my roots,” she stated. “The exchange is a constant source of creative inspiration.”

One of Colombia’s most acknowledged style designers, Silvia Tcherassi, has been working with Indigenous communities for greater than a decade.

“Their techniques, material usage and rich symbolism make their work completely transcendental,” she stated. “There is just so much magic, meaning and pride behind every weave, every stitch.”

In her boutique close to Plaza de Santa Teresa, guests will discover handmade designer luggage created with Wayuu, Usiacurí and Malambo communities (from 600,000 pesos) alongside demi-couture night robes crafted with luxurious European materials (from 6 million pesos). “I find that juxtaposition unique and fascinating,” she stated.

Other boutiques in the Old City with the same fusion embody Sancte, that includes handwoven hats and luggage alongside minimalist linen attire (from 75,200 pesos), and Casa Chiqui, whose proprietor, Chiqui de Echavarría, designs an artisan-made line of jewellery and equipment (215,000 to 1.2 million pesos).

A number of blocks from Plaza Santo Domingo, El Centro Artesano is a treasure trove of handmade objects from Wayuu tote luggage to Werregue residence décor and soon-to-debut pet collars that its director, María Elena Rangel, sources from Indigenous communities across the nation (20,000 to 6 million pesos).

Through the Guazuma Foundation, she additionally supplies skilled workshops to Indigenous weavers and hosts in-store demonstrations the place artisans showcase the making of their craft.

Each piece is a murals with its personal distinctive sample, colour scheme and kind, Ms. Rangel defined: Just one Mochila bag can take wherever from days to weeks to create.

“These ancestral traditions are part of our cultural identity, we need to support and protect them,” she stated.

Nilma Hoyos Racero not too long ago opened the most recent iteration of Nilma Hoyos Artesanal in Getsemani, a neighborhood southeast of the Old City. Her pocket-size store is brimming with emblematic luggage in all sizes and shapes (30,000 to 650,000 pesos). For the previous 15 years, Ms. Hoyos Racero has been working carefully with the Wayuu folks.

“Wayuu women weave their life into each design: family insignias, beliefs, dreams, and the natural landscapes that surround them,” she stated. Weaving has been likened to meditation, the place the vitality of the maker is embedded into the composition and transmitted to the one who makes use of it.

“These women are not machines, they’re the guardians of ancestral knowledge and they deserve a good price for their work,” she stated.