Most of us have had this moment: you’re browsing in the aisles of a store like Urban Outfitters, when you stumble on an item of clothing that’s clearly inspired by the traditional prints, textiles, or craftsmanship of another culture. Maybe it’s a shirt that looks like a sarape, or Native American-inspired beadwork; it likely looks fly, it’s probably something that will get marketed as “festival wear,” and more often than not, it carries a hefty price tag. But how were these clothes made and who is profiting from the sale? Were any of the artisans, whose work and culture these clothes are clearly referencing, actually involved in or compensated for its creation? These are questions we’re increasingly asking ourselves, as a new generation of consumers that is tuned in more than ever to what goes into producing the clothes we wear.
The good news is, there are lots of organizations focused on producing apparel in a way that is socially responsible. Mercado Global, a non-profit focused on empowering Mayan women artisans in Guatemala, is one of them. Mercado Global builds partnerships with these women entrepreneurs, and helps them sell their work to international retailers like Anthropologie, Comptoir des Cotonniers, Lucky Brand, and Calypso St. Barth. Through this model, they help the women preserve the weaving craftsmanship that has been passed down in Guatemala for thousands of years, while also tripling their average daily income, lifting them out of poverty and allowing them to send their children to school.
It’s a win-win – consumers get to buy something beautiful that they know is supporting sustainable fashion in Latin America, and artisans get to make a living from their work.
Check out some of Mercado Global’s totes, clutches and pouches below, and visit their online shop here.