Why The Fashion Revolution Matters
by Hadley Armstrong, Marketer at Ketzali
When I first moved to Guatemala, I knew nothing of its traditional weaving techniques, its artisans… and really nothing about the “fashion world” in general.
I came to Guatemala because I had always admired its strong passion for culture and natural beauty. When you’re in this country, you literally feel like you’ve gone back in time because you’re surrounded by one of the greenest and most untouched environments, with thousands of people wearing stunning traditional Mayan dress. It’s like nothing you’ve ever seen before.
That’s why when I met Maya, the owner and founder of Ketzali, I was more than eager to learn about her mission of employing local artisans to create clothing for her emerging brand.
Maya invited me to visit many of the artisans who work with Ketzali in their rural communities across the country. Some of these artisans—like Pasqual-- have almost a dozen sons and daughters who all work together to weave their products. Within minutes of meeting them, I could tell that their traditional weaving skills had become a big part of their lives—both as a lifestyle and as a career for their entire family. Weaving provided them all with clothing, an income, a skill, and a livelihood. It was then that I truly realized what an impact weaving has on Guatemalan culture. Not only is it a career and specialty for thousands of people throughout the country, but the different weaving patterns also represent what town you are from, your marital status, and how old you are. It’s not just clothing to them—it’s an identity and a way of life. Day in and day out, Guatemalan artisans work to sell their creations, but with the number of artisans and the lack of demand, sometimes families can’t make enough to send their kids to school or even eat dinner at night. Maya’s passion for weaving and textiles combined with her love for helping local men and women succeed are at the very heart of Ketzali.
When Maya officially established her company in 2011, her goal was to create collections that could appeal to stores across the world while still upholding traditional Guatemalan weaving techniques. That way she could employ local artisans and also market the products to a larger audience to create more projects for the weavers. Her vision would give artisans the opportunity to increase their incomes, practice and improve their skills, and learn new techniques.
Within a few months of working with Ketzali, I began to realize more and more how important the Fashion Revolution really is. Fashion, one of the biggest markets in the world, employs millions of people in numerous countries, yet many of the people who make our clothes are not given the opportunity to have a fair wage or healthy working conditions. Companies like Ketzali are very rare, so it’s so important for us to spread the word: behind every piece of clothing, stands a person.
Now, ten collections later in 2015, Ketzali has helped employ dozens of artisans and women co-operatives throughout Guatemala, improving all of their living and working conditions. We have built priceless, irreplaceable relationships with our artisans, and we have watched them work hard to gain more respect for themselves and their unique skills. The next time I go to buy to a piece of clothing, I will remember the faces of each and every one of the artisans who work with Ketzali. Who made your clothes? Think about it.