“Isa vive, la lucha sigue,” demonstrators shouted as they marched across Mexican city streets on 2020’s International Women’s Day to protest the high rates of femicides in the country. Isabel Cabanillas, lovingly referred to as Isa, was shot to death in early January after a night out with friends.
Since 2015, femicides have been steadily on the rise in Mexico. Juárez—the largest city in the Chihuahua state of the country—has one of the highest rates. In 2019 alone, nearly 1,500 women were murdered. The decades-long issue calls for systemic change and highlights the need for women to become financially independent in order to be able to escape abusive partners and situations.
Ni En More—a social innovation project merging political activism, fashion and art—is highlighting the fight against violence towards women and addressing the need for more sustainable practices in fashion. Its name derives from a combination of Spanish, Norwegian and English words for “not one more,” a saying popularized by feminist activists in Mexico. At its core, Ni En More is a sewing studio that offers a safe environment, fair wages, education and training to women in Ciudad Juárez.
Visual artist and cultural activist Janette Terrazas is one of the founders of Ni En More and also the project coordinator at the brand’s studio.
“Almost all of the members of the team had zero experience in sewing and dyeing when we started, so [an] accomplishment is seeing them be able to create a beautiful garment that takes up to 60 hours to be completed,” she tells Remezcla.
The local women that Ni En More employs run everything from production to social media. The production team currently consists of five women and one man in their main studio in Cd. Juárez and five women at their newest studio in the Rarámuri community.
Many of Ni En More’s team members are made up of members of the local Rarámuri community—an Indigenous group from the Chihuahua state of Mexico.
“Opening a studio within the [Rarámuri] community means that we can create opportunities for an Indigenous group that have been suffering discrimination and deprivation of land and opportunities generation after generation,” Terrazas says. After mastering the skills needed on the job, Rarámuri team members are now able to run a studio of their own within the community, creating employment opportunities for Indigenous women in Juárez.
When Terrazas and co-founders Lise Bjorne Linnert and Veronica Corchado started Ni En More in a small, borrowed room with just a single sewing machine in 2017, one of their earliest missions was to implement sustainable and ethical practices.
“We think it is very important to create more sustainable and ethical practices because the fashion industry is the second most polluting in the world, likewise perpetuating the exploitation of natural resources and cheap labor,” Terrazas tells Remezcla.
The brand utilizes withered flowers and food waste, donated by local flower shops and restaurants, for the dyeing process. Their pieces are crafted from recycled materials from designers such as Samuel Snider to limit textile waste.
“The choice of working with natural dye is conscious. It is ecological and amazing to see the transformation of withered flowers and food waste into something of beauty. With our slow production, we are in opposition to factories and fast-fashion. In factories, the workers can spend 12 hours doing the same seam on the skirt, day after day, month after month. Slow fashion and handcrafting is our way to oppose the exploitation of workers in the hundreds of assembly factories located in Juárez,” Terrazas explains.
Beyond fashion and aesthetics, Ni En More is using its platform to take a stand against some of the world’s most pressing issues––unsustainable fashion business models and gender-based violence. When speaking about the future of the brand, Terrazas tells Remezcla, “Our main goal is to create a sustainable business model for the production of clothes. This will allow us to create jobs that will not only provide dignity and a sustainable, fair income to our team, but also will help to create confidence and skills that contribute to long-term financial independence.”
The numbers are bone-chilling. At least ten women are murdered in Mexico daily. The majority of these victims come from vulnerable contexts as a result of their socio-economic status, race or ethnic origin.
Although Ni En More cannot directly alleviate systemic violence in Juárez, the brand hopes to empower the women of the community to better face the challenges of abuse and, hopefully, one day, gain their freedom.