By Chere Di Boscio
Who’s the most important person in most people’s lives? Yep – it’s probably mom. It’s women who keep the household together, caring for kids, hearth and home. And that’s why the UN’s Commission on the Status of Women recently held a Commission on Women’s Economic Empowerment in the Changing World of Work. The focus was on indigenous women, under the title Hecho por Nosotros (“made by us”).
You see, it’s mainly women who work in the service sector. They’re the ones preparing and serving your food, sewing your clothing and assembling your electronics. But the thing is – a lot of those jobs are being taken away by machines. Robots. And the jobs that do remain are usually so badly paid, it would make your head spin.
The idea of Hecho por Nosotros was to link women business owners with female artisans to create fair trade partnerships, and one brand which was happy to jump on board was Argentinian ethical fashion brand animana. The alpaca based label’s goal is to empower native women through an appreciation of the traditional textiles they have been crafting for centuries, by protecting the cultural patrimony of their weaving and sewing skills, and by raising awareness of the value of artisanal products.
“Reaching these goals leads to positive socio-economic change,” says Adrian Marina, CEO of animana. “We bring ancestral skills and combine them with contemporary styles for an international market. Those skills are not just in terms of weaving. They begin at the very root of fashion, from producers, farmers, yarn spinners, all the way to retailers and consumers.”
Other brands under the Hecho Por Nosotros umbrella include Emilia Velasco, Susan Wagner, Elfer Castro and many, many more. Styles vary from simple – but highly luxurious – scarves, to more elaborate avant garde knitwear looks to beautifully embroidered handbags and accessories.
Designers come from all over Latin America – Mexico, Colombia, Peru, Argentina, to name a few countries – but even though a few of them have moved abroad, they all continue to work with producers in South America. Their goals are the same as Adriana’s – to maintain Latin traditions in animal herding (mainly of alpaca and vicuña), weaving, embroidery and to feed fashion production
Given that even some of the big fashion houses are exploiting Latin American artisans by buying precious materials like vicuña and alpaca in bulk at dirt cheap prices from herders and paying workers pennies for elaborate embroidery for clothing whose markup can be up to 1000 times what big brands pay for it, we believe Hecho Por Nosotros is a concept whose time has surely come.
Images: first group: Emilia Velasco second group: animana third group: Susan Wagner fourth group: Elfer Castro