By Stephanie Vail
Project Manager/Product Designer
Early on in the training program, it was important to introduce the process of design and truly empower the women to think critically about what products they wanted to create and bring to market. The women in Guatemala City were encouraged to make their first designs based on several different factors. We took into consideration the target market, age of the people interested in buying the product, location, season and availability of materials around them. The first four initial designs that the women created were: a shawl (very commonly used in Guatemala, especially for babies and children), a vest (they drew one for a man and one for a woman), a cross-body bag, and a large tote styled bag. After the initial designs, we asked the women to collaborate and determine the next best steps.
Perfecting sewing techniques
From that process they emerged with two ideas: one, combining the shawl with the vest design for a more fashion forward poncho option, and the other: taking the colors of the smaller cross body bag and incorporating the design into a larger tote. Now that the ideas were down on paper, it was time to create prototypes!
With all of our products that we carry at Artisans Thrive, it is important that we source all the materials ethically, paying attention to where fabric is made, by whom and what kind of materials they are using to create the product.
You may not be aware, but in Guatemala, there is a very large indigenous Mayan population. Many of the Mayan communities have maintained their traditional style of weaving that has been passed down from generation to generation. The process is incredible, using vegetation from around the country, the artisans are able to naturally die their threads to create beautiful products using a variety of fruits, vegetables and plants found not far from their home, creating gorgeous, brilliant colors that span the rainbow. Using the handdyed threads, they use a backstrap loom to weave gorgeous patterns that are uniquely tied to their heritage, or designed especially for a fashion forward pattern.
Designing the product
The Mujeres con Vision are especially conscious of this incredible tradition, and in an effort to support another female cooperative, sought out an artisan group near San Juan de La Laguna for the ‘tela tipica’ that is used on the trim of the poncho. By using the material that is created by another group of women, the poncho tells a story beyond our women in La Verbena, but also serves to support a second cooperative as well.
Finalizing the details
After trying out different color combinations, various sizes of the trim, and even using recycled denim from a local project in Guatemala, Mujeres con Vision took their prototypes and thought very critically on which design would be best. In the end, they decided that for the markets in the United States, the green wool with the blue and brown ‘tela tipica’ (traditionally made Mayan fabric), was the end result.
In determining the size and length, the women, along with the assistance and feedback from our Artisans Thrive Design Committee, finalized a poncho that falls comfortably at your sides, allowing for easy movement for everyday use or wearing it out on the town. The poncho angles in the front, creating a sleek look and angles across the back for it to lay smooth and comfortably!
Comments will be approved before showing up.