Our latest collection, Días de Sol, was an exploration into new materials and techniques resulting in fun, fresh accessories for summer.
The design process was headed by our new Oaxaca-based Design + Production Manager Ana Cris. As this was her first collection with us, and we wanted to work with entirely new artisans, she certainly had an uphill battle to get going. However, her background in design, understanding of the local materials and techniques, and ease in working with people from all backgrounds, all helped her gain her footing quite quickly.
Our design process typically begins with several brainstorm sessions that includes our small US-based staff. We all brought to the table ideas for products that fit into the summer accessories category, that could be made out of local materials. When we had a clearer idea of the direction we wanted to go with, Ana Cris created a color palette to drive the design process and then went out to source materials and solidify artisan partnerships.
Our founder, Shelley, also stepped in at this point, flying down to Oaxaca to get Ana Cris acclimated and connected with the current MZ artisans. Since our team is so small, we all tend to wear a lot of hats and we can step in for support in different areas as needed.
“It was very exciting to get to know the artisans and familiarize myself with them. My mind tried to retain all of the new information and also be open to thinking about all the possibilities of what we could do together,” said Ana Cris.
One of our intentions for this line of new products was too expand our warm-weather offerings. Due to the success of our Palm Collection, we wanted to explore other materials that stand up well in heat or near water, such as cotton. The other main motivation for expanding our product offerings was to include more artisans from new communities in the production process, thereby expanding our ability to offer sustainable work, based on fair trade values.
There are essentially five smaller lines within the Días de Sol Collection, each one created by a different woman, often with the support of her family. The variety of artisanal techniques utilized by each artisan makes for a rich and diverse collection of goods, connected by a cohesive color palette.
Blanca is the designer of the lovely pom earrings. She comes from a traditional weaving family in Teotitlan del Valle but diverged to explore making unique products from the same wool, then expanding to use other local materials such as clay and seed pods. “I love it when people see my earrings, and notice that it’s something different, that doesn’t really exist elsewhere. It gets me very excited when they appreciate what I do,” said Blanca.
Yanet, similarly, comes from a weaving lineage in Teotitlan del Valle, but felt inspired to innovate, and began making earrings using macaroni noodles (!), and eventually reinvested in finer materials and honed her designs. Her earrings are the modern beaded styles featured in the new collection.
“It makes me very excited that my earrings are going to be sold in the US. I like that other people will learn that we make more than just rugs here in Teotitlan,” she said.
Marina and her husband Leo make some of our stylish and functional cotton bags, utilizing the pre-Hispanic technique of backstrap loom weaving. When they aren’t weaving, you can find Marina and Leo tending to their crops of corn, beans, and squash. They say that they like to practice activities that connect them to their roots, such as weaving and farming. Even though it’s time consuming physical labor, they believe the fruits of their efforts make it all worth it.
Alejandrina is the artisan behind the thick-knit crocheted cotton bags, using the skills she has been developing since she was just a girl. “I feel very happy when someone buys my bags, because it affirms that it’s not just something I like, but that it appeals to other people too,” she said.
Alma, from Arrazola, carves and paints the wood bracelets, made from the sacred copal tree. Modeled after the colorful little animals called alebrijes, these bracelets offer a fresh take on a traditional craft.
The process of working with each of these artisans looks a little different. In some cases, we just needed to customize certain things they were already making so that the size or color palette made sense for the collection. In other cases, Ana Cris would draft up designs that the artisan could apply to create something completely new.
Once the first samples were completed, the staff met again to go over the results, decide what was working, what wasn’t, and what needed to be tweaked.
“After all these months of work, and so many new things to learn, I feel very happy with the result. This line could not have been possible without the effort of the entire MZ staff, and the incredible work by the hands of local artisans,” said Ana Cris.
We’re really excited about how the Dias de Sol Collection turned out, and to have the opportunity to work with so many new and talented makers. Officially ready for summer over here!