My intro to the World of Fashion: Mercedes-Benz Fashion


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.


With Liza Carrillo, designer for Vessel, and fellow Vessel lovers

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:

Mari outfit

Handmade dress (designed by yours truly), with the awesome red Vessel jacket and a unique Kakaw clutch.

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.







Crazy November

The Holidays are approaching, and we’re feeling the love!  Last November proved to be the busiest month for us, and we’ve got so much more going this year.


We’re got new wraps just in time for the holidays! Check them out: Hummingbird Wrap and Quetzal Wrap, available now on

Our Crazy November Schedule in Guatemala:

November 13-14-15: Holiday Bazaar at Paseo Cayalá, Guatemala City.  This will be our first open-air market at the famous and hip Paseo Cayalá!  We’re so pleased to have received this invitation to participate, and we will be donating 20% of the sales that day to Operation Smile, an organization providing care to children born with cleft lip and cleft palates here in Guatemala and all over the world.  I have to admit, I didn’t know until fairly recently that cleft lip and palate can be so damaging – newborns often have difficulty feeding because of their birth defects (how the mouth is formed).  So we’re of course so excited to be part of this bazaar in one of the coolest spots in Guatemala, for a very important cause.

November 19th: Mercedes-Benz Fashion Show, Guatemala.  I’ll have to work on some serious breathing exercises to get through this one… our first real fashion show, with professional models, cat walk and all…! None other than the Mercedes-Benz Fashion Show!  This invite came through the awesome brand Vessel, and we are working together to make some awesome looks for the show.  Stay tuned 🙂


November 28th: Gifts of Giving Fashion Day at Mesón Panza Verde in Antigua, Guatemala.  Another holiday-spirit event, this one with a dozen different local designers all coming together to support a different NGO of choice.  We are proud to be sponsoring Friendship Bridge at this event, with 35% of the sales that day going directly to the micro-financing organization working specifically with indigenous women in rural Guatemala.  Micro-loans are truly the gift that keeps giving, as the money will continue to be circulated (once it gets paid back to the organization, it will go out again as a different loan).  I love the simplicity of microloans, the direct effect that they have on empowering women and communities as a whole.  After all, women know exactly what their families and communities need.

PVFS - 01

And, of course, we’ve always got our website, now with new wraps, wallets, and more for the holiday season!

2015, you’ve been great.  Let’s end it well!

Success!! Fundación Waybi Event

After lots of prepping on design and production, we are so pleased with how the TAKE A WALK event went last week!

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Held at the best textile museum in Guatemala with food, wine, live music, and of course Kakaw products, it was a night not to be missed!  Fundación Waybi was able to raise awareness and funds for their animal assisted therapy programs, and we are happy to be donating 40% of all sales from that evening to the cause.

Next step: making the Perrito Collection available online, of course always with a portion going directly to Fundación Waybi so that they can continue their work with their therapy animals here in Guatemala, helping people with disabilities live fuller lives.  Expect those cute Perrito Clutches and Wallets to be available next month!

Check out some of the photos from the night:




Perritos everywhere!

We’ve been working on something different… a collection full of dogs!  Because we love dogs, yes, but most of all because the organization Bocalán Guatemala / Fundación Waybi approached us to see if we could help them with this specific collection, with the goal of raising funds to train puppies to become therapy dogs here in Guatemala.

You see, Bocalán works internationally with dogs specifically for animal assisted therapy.  These dogs are amazing, and help people with all kinds of different disabilities live fuller and hopefully happier lives.  To learn more about the organization, check out their Facebook page.

We’re planning a local event in July to launch this collection – and soon after that, the idea is to have the products available for sale online as well, always with a portion of the sales going to Bocalán.  We’re pretty excited about this… local artisans, handmade process, high-quality and beautiful products… and now add to the list training dogs for therapy?  This is truly win-win for everyone.

Sweet Thursday: Sweet Sarah

Our special lovely lady of the week, Sarah – pura chapina.

Sarah with her 6 pairs of Kakaw boots!  Not all for her, some were to share as Christmas gifts ;)

Sarah with her 6 pairs of Kakaw boots! Not all for her, some were to share as Christmas gifts 😉

1.  Where are you from?  (I always like to ask this question to people who have an interesting background, it’s a difficult one for me to answer myself so I find it interesting…)
My name is Sarah, and I was born in Guatemala to American parents originating from Mississippi and Arkansas. During my childhood we frequently visited our family in the US, but as the years passed Guatemala truly became our home. As a teenager I went to boarding school in the north eastern part of the US, and then attended college in Miami where I continued to live for a few years after graduating. I guess you could say I have influences of all kinds… some good ol’ southern roots, a bit of New Englander’s charm mixed with the rich Latin culture that I love so much. However, if I had to give you the short version I would say I am a proud Guatemalan.

Sarah and Quentin

Sarah and Quentin

2. The word out there is that you work with therapy dogs.  For those of us not really familiar with how animals can be helpful in therapy, could you tell us how that works and what your role is?
I do work with therapy dogs and I love my job! I work at Fundación Waybi/Bocalán Guatemala, a non-profit organization. Our mission it is to improve the quality of life of people, helping them lead happier, more independent lives through our therapy and education programs, as well as our assistance dog program.
Our programs include Animal Assisted Interventions (AAI), these consist of Animal Assisted Therapies (AAT), Animal Assisted Education (AAE) and Animal Assisted Activities (AAA). AAT is the participation of a trained animal within a therapeutic process which is directed by a health professional, and is designed to promote improvement in physical, social, emotional and/or cognitive functioning. AAE is the inclusion of a trained animal in an educational program working with set objectives and directed by an education profesional, it facilitates learning by generating positive emotions. AAAs are planned activities with animals that have purely recreational purposes. We also train assistance dogs, these dogs are placed with individuals ranging from people with physical disabilities to children with Autism.  I am a certified trainer and technician in AAIs and work alongside these health and education professionals.



3.  We saw this lovely photo of you on Facebook.  Just with that one shot we can see the calming effect animals can have on people, and the loving relationship that can develop between us (humans) and dogs.  So, who is this giant teddy-bear looking fluff ball?
I love this picture! This is Quentin, he is one of many dogs we have at Fundación Waybi/Bocalán Guatemala. Quentin lives and works with me, I am his handler and trainer. “A giant teddy-bear looking fluff ball” is a perfect description of him! I’ve had the privilege of working with Quentin in many wonderful projects, from AAT with children with Down Syndrome, Autism and Cerebral Palsy to a fantastic AAE program in which we work at a school helping children learn mathematics in a fun way, generating positive emotions.

Quentin working at school

Quentin working at school

Research shows that people who are in a positive emotional state will be open to a learning experience, make more positive judgments and give more favorable feedback than someone in a negative state. I can tell you from personal experience, it is difficult to be in a negative state around Quentin! There truly is an incredible bond that develops between human beings and dogs, and it is with this knowledge that we endeavor to create and implement successful programs in an effort to better the lives of people through these amazing animals. To learn more about the programs and what we do, please visit us at or You can also find more information about our certification course in AAI, as well as many other educational courses throughout the year.

Guess which boots she had custom-made!  Not at all surprising that she chose the textile with DOGS..... you think she might like dogs a little bit?  :D  We do too!!!

Guess which boots she had custom-made! Not at all surprising that she chose the textile with DOGS….. you think she might like dogs a little bit? 😀 We do too!!!