Our Story + Mission
Connecting you to Oaxacan artistry
In 2009, MZ founder Shelley Tennyson was volunteering with a microfinance non-profit in the small Zapotec village of Teotitlán del Valle in the state of Oaxaca, Mexico. She was offering business classes to the female loan recipients, many of whom were weavers. Shelley realized that no matter how exquisite the product, or how savvy their business skills, without buyers, these hardworking and skilled artisans were not able to support themselves or their families adequately.
Three years later, MZ was born out of a belief that commerce can, and should, change lives for the better. What began as a wild idea to sell Zapotec bags globally, in a village where most of the women had never even left the state, has grown into a fair trade fashion brand run by a team of five women in the US and Mexico that supports over 50 artisans in Oaxaca.
Each MZ item holds an element of discovery. From the significance of the traditional designs, to the bold color combinations, and most importantly, the distinct story of the artisan who made it.
The purpose of MZ is to perpetuate the beautiful artistry of the designers, makers, and artisans in Oaxaca, Mexico by connecting them with socially conscious consumers around the globe. With a focus on traditional craftspeople and marginalized groups who are making their living from handmade items, MZ strives to make a positive impact by nurturing lasting relationships and always abiding by fair trade principles.
What this means:
- It is a priority for MZ that all artisans are from Mexico.
- It is a priority for MZ that all artisans are being helped economically by the work MZ provides and the fair trade principles MZ adheres to.
- MZ works with artisans and designers that do not fit the traditional or marginalized profile in limited quantity, preferring to provide work and economic opportunity to those who need it most.
- It will be clear and transparent who we are working with and how they are benefiting from collaboration with MZ. Whether it is economic opportunity or the support of Oaxacan artistic design.
For us at MZ, we recognize the significant role that weaving plays in maintaining and celebrating the incredible Zapotec artisanal lineage. We believe it is essential that Zapotec communities are able to pass down the meaning behind the traditional Zapotec symbols and with it, their connections to their ancestors and the natural world.
It is our goal, through sharing Zapotec textiles with a wider market, to help make weaving a viable livelihood for the artisans, allowing them to continue to do this important work. And we couldn’t do this without conscious shoppers, who value handmade products and indigenous artisanal traditions.
Thanks for being part of the MZ family!
VIDEO: We are MZ
"Not only does the expanded opportunity to sell our artisans partners' goods improve the financial well being of the makers, their families and communities, but it helps them to retail their culture through the opportunity to continue their traditional craft."
MZ Creative + Marketing Director