Thursday, October 29, 2015

Interview with Kakaw Designs: Slow Fashion from Guatemala

Kakaw Designs Beyoutiful Hope
beyoutiful hope kakaw designs threads for thought
ethical fashion blogger interview
buffalo in the fall photoshoot
buffalo blogger christine
kakaw designs quetzal backpack
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ethical fashion blog
ethical fashion blog interview kakaw designs
Romantically Fall Look
Light Rose Long Sleeve Top || Threads 4 Thought via Ecolissa
Ethically and sustainably made in one of the world's most advanced water recycling programs in the world.
Tunic || Free People Intinamtes
Not ethically produced
Double Wide Leather Boots || Women Within
Not ethically produced
Quetzal Textile and Leather Backpack || c/o Kakaw Designs
Handmade with textiles traditionally woven and naturally dyed by a women's group in Guatemala

Where has time gone? It's already fall? Golly Gee! Well today I am very excited to bring to you another interview (as always) with my Ethical Fashion Interview Series! (I hope you have been reading it... if not, you better! :p ) Today we travel to womens traditional weaving groups in  Guatemala via interview. "Where is Guatemala?", you may ask. Guatemala is a Central American country of 14.5 million people located just south of Mexico, touching both the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. If you didn't know already, I am actually traveling to Guatemala in January and will be visiting various ethical fashion organizations that partner with Indigenous women's groups and fair trade cooperatives that traditionally hand weave textiles and use natural dyes to finish!

For today's interview I actually contacted Kakaw Designs a while back and had the opportunity to interview them and do a product review for you all.  I find that it is always important to review product, because my past experiences have shown me that, the title ethical fashion does not always equate to high quality. It the vast majority of the time does, but not always. 

Today, with my completely romantic with a hint of explorer outfit, I am sporting the Kakaw Designs Quetzal Backpack. Sturdily made with leather, thick naturally dyed textiles and two inch wide straps, this actually fits my school binder and books, making it the perfect school pack. There are also two large pockets on the inside to store pencils, your sell phone, and lady things. haha. As far as the outside finish, I absolutely love the texture and finish of the leather. In the interview below, you can learn more about the leather smith that Kakaw Designs partners with, right in Guatemala. Okiedokie, let's get to the interview!

Interview with Mari, Founder of Kakaw Designs

  1. Hello there, please introduce yourself! Where are you from? Where are you now? Is your current career where you saw yourself 5-10 years ago? Hello!  My name is Mari, and I’m mostly from California. I have been living in Guatemala for three years now, and I love it here. 5-10 years ago I did not have a plan, nor do I really consider what I do dabbling in all kinds of fields.  Diversity makes me happy and keeps me now a career.  The word career sounds so rigid, and the truth is I love going.  I am miserable at a 8-5 job, that’s just not for me. 
  2. How do you define ethical fashion? Ethical fashion, to me, is fashion with a conscience. This means treating people and environments fairly, while still creating beautiful pieces that make people happy.
  3. Do you consider KAKAW DESIGNS ethical fashion? Why or why not? Yes, I do consider Kakaw Designs to be ethical, and also slow fashion.  We’re interested more in the quality rather than the quantity.  For example, all our new textiles from our partner cooperative of weavers are prepared on a traditional backstrap loom, which allows the women to work from home where of course they have lots of other things to do.  We could somewhere else, and not as many of the women would benefit since we wouldn't reduce cost by using a foot loom, but then the women would have to work from need as many of them to get the job done.  So in a way, we’ve made a even if that means increasing cost.  We know our products are worth it, conscious decision to slow down the process so that more weavers would benefit, and we want to make sure the weaving tradition continues. 
  4. How many weaver community cooperatives do you partner with? How did you decide on them?  We have partnered with a wonderful cooperative at Lake Atitl├ín because of their skills in not only weaving but also using natural dyes.  The founder, Francisca, is incredibly sharp and it is wonderful to too, but have yet to encounter anyone with the level of professionalism that work with her and her cooperative.  I’ve tried working with other groups Francisca has. Aside from cooperatives, we try our best to buy used textiles from women directly.  This means cutting out the middle man and more benefit to the weavers, or the owners of the beautiful huipiles (blouses) and cortes (wrap skirts).
  5. What makes textiles used in KAKAW DESIGNS traditional? How important is tradition in the communities you work in? We use some traditional textiles and some with new designs that we have developed with our partner cooperative.  All the textiles we use are handwoven using traditional methods, so they are traditional in that sense.  I love using Mayan designs, but I think it’s more important to be course spark creativity in other weavers.  New designs, new products, more innovative in style, looking for new designs that help us stand out and of work.
  6. What does "upcycled textiles" mean? The upcycled textiles are the huipiles and cortes that women have worn, gotten tired of, and sold (to me!).  Just as we get tired of wearing that same shirt, village women in Guatemala do, too.  Fashion changes, new colors and designs become “in” and women want to sell their old clothes and buy new ones.
  7. What percentage of textiles used in KAKAW DESIGNS are upcyled? This is a hard one to judge, but I would say maybe 40% right now.  This depends on demand, of course, and we are always working to increase the portion of new textiles rather than the used, so that we can provide more work and incentive for the women to keep weaving.  
  8. Tell me about your leather smiths. We have the most wonderful head leather smith, Don Julio.  He is 65 years old and has been making boots for 48 years.  He is the most detail-oriented leather smith I have yet to meet, and it is so wonderful to have someone like that on our team.  He is in charge of putting together the different leather smiths for each of the boot-making processes: cutting leather, sewing the pieces together, molding the boot, and respective homes.  The idea of “going to work” doesn't really exist for molding the sole. Most of these tasks take place at the leather smiths’ doing their job - which he does very well, of course, because he is well-respected local leather smiths, so Don Julio really has a big job making sure everyone is in the community.
  9. Leather is sourced from Xela. Why did you decide to source from Xela, Guatemala? Can you tell us about the community? This was an easy decision - we like the quality and color from there!  To be honest, we are not very involved with the leather portion, as this is a male-dominated and well-established industry.  We have chosen to work more closely with the women weavers.
  10. Tell me about your target market. What is your main venue for promoting your business? Our target market is mainly in the US, but we have shipped our products to many other countries.  To be honest, we haven’t spent much money in ads - word of mouth has been our best promotional tool, because our products are best seen in person!  
  11. Where do you see KAKAW DESIGNS in 2 years? 5 years? I see Kakaw Designs building further partnerships with other weaving cooperatives, and creating new design.  I think it’s really important for the weavers to be creative in design, and for us to come up with new products together.  I would love to work with a group working with embroidery, and making jewelry with textile pieces as well.

  12. What makes KAKAW DESIGNS different from other leather/textile businesses with similar products and business models? When I started Kakaw Designs two years ago, there were already other brands making boots with textiles.  But I really didn't like what I saw in design, quality, and business model.  So I guess I don’t really know other brands around that have a similar business model - there are those that are more focused on fast fashion, and those that have built themselves more like non-profits, but lacking in design.  I aim to be the healthy middle ground between design and ethics.
  13. Do you have anything else you would like to share? Just that I can’t wait to see more of your photos!  They are always so beautiful, and I love how natural they are.  That’s the image we want for Kakaw!  And I look forward to meeting you, Christine, soon in Guatemala!  

Blessings Always,

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  1. Christine, over the past year you have opened my views to understand the importance of buying products that are better for our environment... I also agree it is wonderful if the product is great itself. This year has passed by so quickly, it seems they speed up as I get older... such is life... Have a amazing weekend xox

  2. The photos are beautiful. Great interview.

  3. That is a beautiful backpack and I love how you styled it! I've been wanting something similar, so I'm really excited learn about this brand. You asked great questions! I'll definitely be checking out their site.
    I'm also really looking forward to hearing about your trip to Guatemala.
    Hope you had a great Halloween weekend!

  4. Beautiful photos, so very fall!

  5. Amazing post. Well done! Keep going

    Please check my last post blog
    Many kisses
    Lady Fur

  6. Great post dear! I invite you to join my Giveaway on the blog:

  7. Thanks so much for this interview, Christine! These photos still amaze me <3 SOOOO beautiful! Looking forward to connecting with you in person finally!




Thank you for the lovely comment. God bless & stay Be-you-tiful!