Updated: Feb 9
BY LUCÍA LOZADA
The fashion industry is taking huge steps towards more sustainable and ethical fashion. Personally, I think for this change to happen and slowly become a reality, consumers have to be deeply involved. With the opportunity to write for ELOQUĒNTIA, the first thing that came to mind, realizing that you only hear about these shifts happening in the big fashion capitals of the world, was how are these changes happening in Latin America -because they are, but people are not talking about it enough-. Also, how I could help to open the dialogue and encourage consumers to support local, ethical, sustainable brands that overall have a really great vision for the future of fashion and are actually working to make it happen.
I wanted to bring into the spotlight certain Latin American brands that not only are taking an initiative towards sustainability, but also do so while empowering women, giving job opportunities and trying to preserve the cultures of the different countries and communities they are from.
Picking up on the work of philosopher Walter Benjamin, modernity is defined by the development of a historical awareness of the current condition, to be able to recognize an echo between the times we live in and past times.
"Fashion works as a historical fact, not simply as a historicized element of the past but more as a force that through its constant self-reference and quotation breaks the historical continuum and activates, at times even revolutionizes, past occurrences for the present" (1)
In this sense, we can see the clear connection between fashion and culture and how it can serve as a way to keep alive the cultures of those communities that have been silenced and invisible for centuries in Latin America. Professor Monica Codina affirms that creating fashion nowadays is a way to make culture: “In order to think about culture, it is necessary to take into account the conditions in which it develops. Every cultural creation has a material and spiritual dimension." (2)
To put it into perspective, fashion and context are strictly linked and nurture one another. Fashion is directly influenced by social, economical, political and artistic facts, which are represented in culture, but most importantly fashion serves as a way of revaluing and appreciating cultural aspects of society.
The work of “Manos Zapotecas”, a brand I had the honour to interview, is definitely preserving their traditions while allowing themselves to be innovative. They are from Oaxaca, Mexico and work with women artisans from the Zapotec community. I had the opportunity to talk to three of their artisans, Antonia, Malena and Rocío and they told me that weaving and spinning yarn has always been a tradition for women in their community, and it’s passed from one generation to the next one. Six years ago, a company from the US gave them the opportunity to sell their crafts on a larger scale, providing many jobs, sources of income, and appreciating the traditions and designs originary from the Zapotec culture. They are guided by the culture of the “Tequio” and “Guelaguetza”, which means “support between siblings” – they help each other, between the families and for the common benefit of the community. It’s all about helping each other and creating meaningful products. They believe that the changes that are currently taking place not only in the fashion industry but to a social level are taking us back to our principles, back to simpler times; that the crisis we are going through has a purpose and that is to return to our origins, to be kind to the environment, to be kind to each other and to be kind to ourselves.
Oftentimes we don’t realize the impact we have as consumers; slowly we’ll start to comprehend that what does good to one does good to all. Each bag they sell means a lot to them and to their community. They are really proud – behind each product they make there are a lot of women working together in alliance.
“Manos Zapotecas” is not only a brand to look up to, but also serves as an example to realize the huge number of brands and businesses who share the same goals and values, and that we could help enormously by supporting them. It is our responsibility as consumers to try and be conscious about who and where we are putting our money towards.
1. Lehnmann, U. (n/d) "Walter Benjamín" [article]
2. Codina, M. (2004) "Crear moda, hacer cultura" [conference] https://asmoda.com/Content/docs/2_CREAR_MODA_HACER_CULTURA.pdf