I didn’t know it then, but I started developing the concept for my own business about 3 years ago.
It was summertime in the city and I was out enjoying an afternoon of reggae and dancing. The Gods of nature blessed us that day by delivering perfect weather for playing outdoors in the company of friends. I was not thinking of anything else but having fun when, suddenly, something inside one of the festival merchant booths grabbed my attention.
Towards the rear of the booth, behind the artisan guayaberas and colorful women’s dresses, a woman sat behind a sewing machine. She looked busy. Curious, I entered the booth and slowly began making my way towards her. I pored over the beautiful garments and artisan fashions in the booth as I moved closer, but only to justify my unauthorized advance towards the woman sewing quietly in the back.
I slowed my pace when I was close enough to observe the lively scene in more detail and looked nervously over my shoulders. I wanted to get closer but I felt like an intruder, as if my presence was going to disturb her concentration and cheapen her craft.
I did not have a business back then, but I knew the owner of the booth would feel uncomfortable if I approached such a critical employee. Not only I could interrupt her, I might be a competitor looking to steal such a valuable asset and ruin their business. I chuckled at myself. I’m so silly, I thought. After all, I was just a customer browsing through the merchandise like dozens before me, who by chance reached the end of the booth and stroke a casual conversation with an employee. People entered booths and bought nothing all the time. What was so suspicious about that? Besides, I was just a couple of steps away. All I needed was to look at one last garment, look disinterested, put it back in the rack, take two steps, and satisfy my curiosity. Easy. Just one more piece of clothing to go. Happily, things didn’t go down this way.
As planned, I picked up a garment, scanned it both sides, checked the label, and showed disinterest, but as I went to put it back in the rack, my eyes instinctively locked on the price tag. I pulled the garment back from the rack and looked at the tag again. I squinted my eyes. The price was rather high price for a rebozo shawl—shockingly high. I was beginning to question my eyes when a voice made me jump on my feet. “Are you looking for anything in particular?” the owner of the booth asked. “Not really,” I said, before engaging in some small talk mostly made of refusals to buy anything until other customers took the stage light away from me. Finally, I was able to able to approach the woman working diligently in the rear of the booth.
Or so it appeared.
A defining moment
When I finally introduced myself to the woman, my inner fashion geek immediately kicked in . Overwhelmed with curiosity I asked what she was working on. Halfheartedly, the woman explained that she was not really working on anything in particular. Surprised and confused, I asked another question but she cut me off, looked at me, and said in Spanish, “I don’t know anything. I’m just here for the day. I’m part of the booth display.”
I caught my breath before picking my stomach and heart back off the ground. The immediate excitement had quickly soured into a cloud of completely unexpected disappointment.
I was not looking for anything in particular in that booth that summer afternoon. I definitely was not looking for a bogus artisanal enterprise, or a craftswoman paid to play a stock character, but I did find something. Something I completely forgot about for a long time until I met that anonymous artisan woman/prop. I found my own voice.
Values-led, making our work count
Awake with new purpose, I was eager to give voice to those who had been silenced, voiceless, or were unrecognized or uncelebrated for their artistic and cultural contributions to our world. I was going to champion and celebrate artisan artwork and display on active wear made from 100% eco-friendly and recyclable materials.
I saw a world where prejudice falls to the wayside. I saw a world where people could start a conversation and connect over the uniqueness of each new artisan print for our active wear, admiring the colors and unique symbols, patterns, and rich historic meanings associated with each garment. I saw a world where we were respecting and paying tribute to those artisans creating the art, while also empowering them to actively preserve their own way of life.
Fast forward to the present, and I am so moved by all we have accomplished thus far. We have certainly come a long way, and as we prepare for our official launch of Nubia Natalie this fall, I can wholeheartedly say, how very proud I am of our very first collection.
This collection is special for me for many reasons; the most important being that it is integrated to the very roots of the Huichol community. We are honored to be working alongside this beautiful community, and are proud of our collective efforts to ensure we are adequately reflecting and helping to sustain the way of life of this community for future generations.
It is only the beginning, but with supporters like you, I am optimistic for the future of our work and the future of artisan designers. Thank you for reading.
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