Tapping Indigenous Talent in Colombia

Indigenous Colombians Fashion has become highly renowned on the international scene for its exquisite utilisation of hand-wrought ancient methods ranging from weaving and embroidery to beading. It’s not uncommon to see a vividly coloured Mochila purse, a must-have item for most Indigenous Colombians Fashion or a traditional palm straw hat on international catwalks or being worn by A-list celebrities.

With its bougainvillea-draped Spanish Colonial houses and centuries-old cobblestone walkways, the walled city of Cartagena on Colombia’s Caribbean coast is an exquisite spot to shop for a variety of high-quality handcrafted items manufactured by Colombia’s various artisan groups.

“While we still have a great tradition of artisans carrying on heritage handicrafts, we also have an amazing new school of designers incorporating these techniques into more modern designs,” said Cristina Consuegra, co-founder of Galavanta, a local travel company that curates personalised shopping experiences ranging from high-end boutiques to family-owned businesses.

The trend of fashion designers partnering with artisan talent has blossomed in part because to Artesanas de Colombia, a government-run agency that began a programme in 2015 to build long-term ties between the fashion industry and more than 2,000 artists around Colombia.

It also offers entrepreneurship training as well as innovation and design laboratories, and it promotes artisan communities by acquiring handicrafts to sell to a worldwide market through its different city stores and online shop.

A new store at La Serrezuela, an upmarket mall, cultural centre, and food hall that just built in a former bullring and theatre in the San Diego district, provides an Indigenous Colombians Fashion craftsmanship.

The store sells hundreds of handcrafted items manufactured by more than 100 Indigenous tribes, including the Wayuu in La Guajira, the Arhuacos in Magdalena, and the Kamntsá in Putumayo (prices ranging from 12,000 to 12 million Colombian pesos; approximately $3 to $3,060).

“Our items come with official seals so you know you’re receiving the finest quality workmanship and that the artisan has been adequately compensated for their job,” said Laura Samper Blanco, Artesanas de Colombia’s communications director.

St. Dom is a concept store run by a Colombian, Alex Srour, and his Croatian-born wife, Maya Memovic, in an airy colonial palace in the Old City that specialises in domestic designers, many of whom cocreate contemporary items with Indigenous craft experts (150,000 to 2.5 million pesos).

Patrons may purchase modest Verdi Mochila purses and clutches (1.1 million to 2.7 million pesos), which are made from natural materials such as plantain fibres and alpaca gathered from several artisan groups and sculpted by the hands of 45 in-house artists at its atelier in Bogotá.

“We reinvent ethnic patterns with contemporary materials and techniques; just the shape and name remain,” stated Verdi co-owner and designer Tomás Vera.

Mola Sasa’s brilliant appliqué purses (from 890,000 pesos); Michu Bags’ multicoloured clutches fashioned from fique, a hemp-like fibre (from 750,000 pesos); and fashionable Woma Hats are also available (from 400,000 pesos). The shop also stocks two companies recognised for their long-term relationships with numerous Indigenous artisans: Johanna Ortiz (600,000 to 2.2 million pesos) and Mercedes Salazar, whose store is just down the street.


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