Raven + Lily is a lifestyle brand gaining wide recognition for their work with women in developing countries. We’ve loved what they’re about ever since featuring them here, so when founder Kirsten Dickerson offered to share her diary from a recent trip to Guatemala, we jumped at the chance to get an inside look at how her company is working to preserve one-of-a-kind creations.
I went to Guatemala to see how our new apparel partnership would empower the at-risk women in this beautiful land. What I discovered was the opportunity to help preserve an art form that could bring dignity and value to traditional indigenous women.
Land Of Gorgeous Textiles
Last week I returned from my first venture into Guatemala in preparation for the Spring 2015 launch of a new apparel line crafted from gorgeous, hand-loomed cotton for Raven + Lily. It was my first time in this part of world, and I fell in love with the amazing fabrics and textiles that represent specific indigenous groups of people from various tribes and regions of the country. I think it is hard for us as “fast fashion” westerners to grasp the incredible time and talent that goes into such hand loomed works of art.
Fashion Is A Universal Language
Upon arrival to the first weaving group, I quickly realized the women had never spent time with foreigners, so we broke the ice with an impromptu dress-up party! It’s amazing how fashion can truly connect women, no matter what the culture or circumstance.
These Mayan women were all widows and we were honored that they wanted us to know their stories. They were strong and inspiring. Their clothing was a work of art and I quickly found myself dreaming of ways to introduce their craft to a western market. Their weavings are an explosion of color, texture and beauty. The Mayan artisans graciously sold us their personal, hand-loomed tunics so we could share these wonders with our design team and we could wear them with great pride.
Conscious Commerce = Economic Opportunity
The women from our main artisan partnership are a small, indigenous tribe called the Qe’qchi people. They hand-loom the delicate gauze-like fabric for our apparel collection and live in a magical land dripping with clouds, coffee fields and orchid flowers. Traditionally, they learn to weave at age eight to ten so that they can become masters at the craft, as well as carry on the tradition of making their indigenous clothing.
When markets are opened for them to sell their weavings, they are then able to educate their children and dream for ways to improve their livelihood.
When I interviewed the women (after my questions were translated twice from Spanish and then into their Qe’qchi language), I learned how important weaving is to their cultural identity. It takes weeks to weave a single scarf. When markets are opened for them to sell their weavings, they are then able to educate their children and dream for ways to improve their livelihood. I can hardly wait to launch this line of apparel in the spring!
Bringing DIY Abroad
My main motivation for wanting to partner with artisan women in Guatemala was to help preserve the craft of weaving that is so connected to their indigenous cultures. The appreciation of handcrafted artisan wares is dying around the world amongst many younger generations. They no longer want to learn to weave or make things their moms and grandmothers have made. It’s out of style to them. They prefer getting the factory made fashion promoted through the West.
Ironically, there is a beautiful movement happening across our country that is celebrating the “makers” and “crafters.” This movement excites me because if we start to embrace the traditions of these beautiful cultures, maybe we can start to keep the trend of many artisans’ crafts from dying off.
… conscious consumerism can make a real difference in the lives of these Guatemalan artisans, as well as in the lives of the many others I work with around the world …
I hope we continue to embrace the DIY and “maker” movement — both locally and globally — and consider ways we can spend our resources on fashion that has a positive impact on people and planet. I know such conscious consumerism can make a real difference in the lives of these Guatemalan artisans, as well as in the lives of the many others I work with around the world, but I’m also seeing it making a difference in our lives as we learn to slow down and consider the story behind what we wear.
Images by Jackie Gilles