By Chiara Spagnoli Gabardi
Latin America’s famous for so much: its fabulous music, from salsa and samba to bossa nova; its jaw-dropping landscapes, like Machu Picchu, Iguazu Falls and the Galapagos islands; its sexy, friendly people, great food, and famous festivals. But now we can add something to the list of things to love Latin American Fashion.
We always knew Latinas had style – but we had no idea how sustainable Latina American fashion was until now. Here are some of the best, most ethical brands we found, from sunny Mexico to sultry Argentina.
“What happens to the planet also happens to you” is the motto of the Uruguayan ethical fashion brand Ruta 10. This label creates extraordinary bags and accessories made out of recycled rubber, obtained from old bicycle and car tires. Founder Ana de León was inspired to initiate this project after a trip to Barcelona, where she met an artisan who made fashion out of recycled rubber. Ana had an epiphany about setting up her own fashion label that would cooperate with plastic artists, and incorporate other eco-friendly materials, such as pure merino wool coloured with natural dyes. Her intuition proved to be right: Ruta 10 won first place in a fashion competition organised by the National Innovation Agency of Uruguay.
Eluxe is very fond of Mexico’s Hacienda Montaecristo, which was launched by two fashionistas with Italian origins, Francesca Bonato and Jacopo Janniello Ravagnan. While roaming through Mexico’s flea markets they were conquered by the traditional “rebozo”, a long flat garment used by women mostly in the region that can be be worn folded or wrapped around the head or upper body to shade from the sun. Intrigued by the gorgeous material, these two designers incorporated it into bags, shawls, and even shoes–and Hacienda Montaecristo was born. Francesca sells her goods in shops around North America and Mexico, as well in Coqui Coqui, the hotel in Tulum she co-owns with her husband Nicolas Malleville.
Fashion designer Mirta Evi founded The Andes Fashion in 2011 with the intent of channelling her Italian and Spanish heritage into design. The fashion label works with raw materials that are converted into sustainable luxury products with the support of artisans throughout Ecuador. Toquilla straw, wool felt and cruelty-free rabbit angora felt form the basis for each garment, which is manufactured using ancient techniques used by local artisans. The result is tremendously eco-chic accessories, hats, jewellery and shoes.
Eden is a 100% organic Brazilian label that came to life thanks to manufacturer YD Confecções and Coexis – a company that works promoting organic cotton in Brazil by partnering with farmers’ organisations and cooperatives to provide the fashion industry with responsible materials. What is exemplary about Eden is not only the way the entire collection in the São Paulo store is made of organic cotton but also how it is coloured with only natural dyes.
In the ancient rural village of Teotitlán del Valle, near Oaxaca in Mexico, skilled artisans have been hand crafting woven products for generations. Manos Zapotecas has brought together these top quality, handwoven products to socially conscious buyers across the country, ensuring the weavers receive a fair price for their intensive labours. The platform that connects artisans with new markets, helps to spread the artistry of the Mexican region and its Zapotec people, empowering communities through fair trade.
Alida Boer, a former Miss Guatemala, is so proud of her country’s Mayan traditions she decided to devote herself to a fashion project that would preserve local textiles and methods of weaving whilst giving women of her region the chance to establish themselves as entrepreneurs through their artistic skills. Each bag reflects the Mayan culture through the vivid colours and expressive creativity of the design. The fine embroidery of the bags uncovers geometric shapes, animals, landscapes, flowers and shares the country’s culture through the myths, rituals, legends, and old customs portrayed on each bag.
Moving away from low wages and poor working conditions, every one of Chilpa’s products celebrates the artisan who made it not only by paying them a decent, regular wage, but also by including their name and portrait on the label attached to it.
“I set up Chilpa because I was tired of Mexican mis-representations in the media in so many negative ways. I had also seen how fashion designers became famous by using rebozo fabrics, without acknowledging the people who made it and I wanted to do the opposite”, explains Maru Rojas, Chilpa’s founder.
Maru worked with a professional fashion designer and seamstress in London to produce a new range of practical yet beautiful bags that incorporates one of Mexico’s most iconic woven fabrics: the rebozo. Local seamstresses, working in small workshops rather than factories, manufacture all the bags in Mexico, using techniques and materials that have been used in that nation for centuries.
Argentine women are known all over South America for their slim, model-like figures (a miracle, coming from the land of dulce de leche!) and they usually like to show these off in curve-clutching clothing. But on a cold winter’s night, nothing’s better than an oversized jumper, poncho or shawl from Animana. Roomy, forgiving, and made from the softest Patagonian raised alpaca, these garments are naturally dyed too. They’re so fine, you can layer them up for extra warmth without feeling at all bulky.
Getting dressed up to go out for dinner is a way of life in Argentina, and this designer creates slinky pieces that are perfect for just that. Each piece in her collection is made from surplus materials, thus reducing landfill. We love the pops of citrus colours that appear on these otherwise neutrally hued backgrounds.
10. Nido, Argentina
Argentina isn’t just full of gorgeous men and cattle – there are plenty of sheep there, too – and Nido uses these free range fluffies to create its simple, handmade knitwear. Spun and dyed in the old-fashioned way in small batches, Nido uses traditional tools and the knitting skills that local women inherited from their grandmothers to create warm and wooly sweaters and accessories. As a result of this artisanal process, every Nido garment is a bit different; it’s special and unique because it is handmade from beginning to end.