What an experience to be part of Guatemala’s Mercedes-Benz Fashion Show on November 19th, 2015! I am still recovering from the thrill of seeing our handmade boots and bags on the runway as part of the beautiful looks by Vessel.
I would like to make yet another confession (this blog is full of confessions these days)… I never expected to be part of a runway show. I don’t even really know how I got to this point where I am being introduced to strangers as “Mari, the Designer for Kakaw Designs.” When did I become a designer, and part of this Fashion scene?
I started Kakaw Designs because I love the handwoven textiles in Guatemala, and saw the need for truly high-quality products using these gorgeous textiles. And hey, I’ve always loved boots… so why not boots? And then we started making bags and accessories, too, always with the mission to work with talented weavers and leathersmiths. But this amateur thought that we would need to go against “Fast Fashion”, the kind that we see on the runway, that it was Us vs. Them.
Turns out, I was wrong. There is a place on the runway for quality handmade products. Vessel is a great example of a brand mixing beautiful contemporary designs with traditional and handmade accents, perhaps most notable in their use of embroidery, like in this gorgeous jacket that I wore to the event, combining Vessel and Kakaw for the night:
My friends know that I was worried for the show. I was worried about using traditional designs, about incorporating these gorgeous handmade pieces into the runway show, I thought for some reason Kakaw products would not fit in. Worse yet, I was worried about being disrespectful to the handmade and traditional processes, these designs that are so beautiful and so labor-intensive to produce, somehow decreasing its importance by being part of such a big show as this one by Mercedes-Benz. Thank goodness I was dead wrong!
The looks are so beautiful. Liza Carrillo, the designer (now she really is a designer) for Vesesl, put everything together so elegantly and tastefully. She did an incredible job.
THIS LOOK: the opening look for Vessel, and one of my favorites for sure.
And here’s my video, I apologize in advance because I am not a videographer:
There are so many labels these days within the fashion industry: Fast Fashion, Slow Fashion, Ethical Fashion, Sustainable Fashion, Eco Fashion…. but they do all fall under one category: Fashion. There are so many problems in the big mainstream fashion scene, but at this runway level, it is a fantasy world, a theatrical show. These looks are presented as works of art, that may or may not be for sale, but first and foremost they are works of art to be appreciated as such. And in this sense, I have gained so much respect for this world of Fashion at the runway level.
En fin, I loved being part of this runway experience. I would do it again in a heartbeat, knowing that there is a way to present handmade products respectfully and beautifully in a place I thought was reserved for mainstream fashion (whatever that is). There is a big movement taking place, not only in Guatemala but all over the world, of appreciating artisans and valuing handmade processes. Guatemala stands out because of its indigenous peoples and arts, as in the traditional textiles of the Maya. But I rest assured that Kakaw is only a small part of this big change, that there are many other like-minded designers and brands that are working towards values such as respect, sustainability, and the continuation of traditional art forms. This is a great feeling, full of hope, and I look forward to seeing where our journey takes us.