Just Leather Shoes

Ever since we started Kakaw Designs with custom-made boots, we’ve gotten requests from people wanting simple designs with just leather, no textile. I’ve been resisting against this for some time, just because I’ve always wanted our focus to be textile over leather.

But… you know what? I was wrong. I love these Quetzal Shoes in Just Leather, and it’s always a pleasure to support Don Julio’s cobbler business. And through these sales, we can also invest more in textile prototypes and pursue new designs. So really, it’s win-win.

IMG_1414

I’m sorry I was narrow-minded and it took me so long to incorporate Just Leather shoes. But now, they’re here. I hope you like them too, I’m loving mine.

IMG_1472.JPG

Available online for $185. Choose “Just Leather” option under “Textiles”.

 

IMG_1418

Thank you, Don Julio!

 

Advertisements

Kaleido Collection: Beautiful forms in a beautiful country

<I’m super psyched to announce something brand new for us. I shared a little bit about the difficulties being away from artisans, and the idea for Kakaw Designs has always been to support talented artisans in Guatemala. With that in mind, we’re excited to be adding gorgeous handwoven cushion covers by Kaleido Collection onto our website this Fall. Emmy shares her honest story about the how and why behind her new brand, take a look! -Mari>

Emmy weaving edited

Emmy practicing her backstrap weaving skills during Textile Travels – she joined us for a workshop 🙂

I first came to know and live in the beautiful country of Guatemala through working at an NGO focused on coffee communities. Working in a small town primarily made up of small-scale agriculture, I worked alongside coffee producers and got to know the skilled work and art of coffee. Along the way, I met several artisans, some who have generations of craft experience and others who are newfound makers. What started as purchases and custom-made requests for myself turned into a desire to share these beautiful forms with others while supporting talented artisans.

Let’s start at the beginning. It’s hard not to notice the colorful and intricate textiles found throughout Guatemala. Sadly, many people, both visitors and chapines, don’t know the hours of meticulous work and faces behind these woven pieces. I was one of those people that admired woven and embroidered textiles but didn’t truly understand all that went into producing a piece. Not to mention that there are a multitude of different processes and techniques. That’s part of what makes Guatemalan textiles so amazing.

Picking up the textiles with Francisca

Picking up textiles with Francisca

<I interrupt to give a virtual high-five for anyone who can spot a custom Kakaw textile in this shot 😉 -Mari>

My first visit with the Corazon del Lago weaving cooperative was a trip to San Juan la Laguna at Lake Atitlan with my sister. Like many visitors, we came for an afternoon to check out the little shops that line the main road up from the dock. Little did I know at the time that my first scarf purchase from one of those little shops would grow into something more. A year later, I found out that it’s the same cooperative that Kakaw Designs works with. Through Mari I was introduced to Francisca, the co-op president, and I set up a natural dyes demonstration to get a glimpse of the process behind botanical-based dyes. My inner environmentalist was intrigued by the amazing, vibrant colors that plants can produce.

In talking with Francisca, it’s clear that the co-op has benefited many women in the community but like many businesses in Guatemala, it’s not easy to grow in an economy that is often reliant on the ebbs and flows of tourism. Through my work with community tourism in coffee communities, economic markets tied to tourism and agriculture harvest seasons are stories that aren’t uncommon to hear. Diversification is essential.

Over time I began to learn more and more about the world of Guatemalan textiles and the skilled people that make it happen. It also meant that I was acquiring more woven pieces ranging from huipiles from one of the textile shops in Antigua and learning where they are from to requesting custom sewing orders from Elvia, an expert seamstress who I’ve worked with through the coffee organization. One of my favorite personal pieces I have worked with Elvia on has been pillow covers, of which there have been several iterations with the most recent being the collaboration with the weaving cooperative!

In Elvia's home studio - Lavender Love is her favorite

In Elvia’s home sewing studio – Lavender Love is her favorite

Throughout all this, I had never really thought about starting a business. After getting to know several brands that collaborate with artisans like Kakaw Designs, I realized that it wasn’t such a far-fetched idea. So begun the idea of not just buying pieces for myself, but to contribute to other market avenues for artisans, albeit small. I still have a lot to learn, but I figured that the worst failure would be never trying.

The word Kaleido means beautiful form in Greek. I found it fitting, as there are so many beautiful things in Guatemala – the breathtaking landscapes, detailed craftsmanship and especially the gracious and hospitable people.

Artisan relationships are the heart of Kaleido Collection. Valuing artisans’ work and time is unfortunately not the norm for many of the things we consume and buy. Kaleido Collection hopes to be a small part of that change along with many other like-minded organizations and brands that seek to make just and dignified work the only acceptable practice.

I hope you enjoy these pillows as much as I have enjoyed the journey in producing them!

 

<see more of the beautiful cushion covers online>

 

Textiles

Finally online… new treasures!

It’s no secret that designing and producing new items is more challenging when far, far, away from the talented artisans we work with. I’ve been outside of Guatemala for the better part of a whole year now, and this is one of the things I miss most about being in Guatemala: the ability to try new things with artisans, this sort of “trial and error” process that every new product needs. I can still sketch anywhere I am, and of course I’ve gotten new ideas for products as a student in Europe – new product needs, new patterns, new colors, new aesthetics, new weather needs, too ❄️. But the conversations with artisans, and physically feeling textures and seeing colors… these are things very challenging to accomplish while so far away.

All this to say that I’m extra pleased to announce the addition of these items, finally online and available for shipping from the US.

I’d like to add a special note here to say that these items would not have been possible to make come true without the existing relationships with the talented artisan groups we partner with in Guatemala. I think over the years we’ve gotten to know each other’s strengths, and have been able to figure out what kind of beauties we can make together. It must be extremely challenging for them to also communicate with me via email and messages, they’ve done a wonderful job and I am so grateful.

It felt great to be back and lead the first Textile Travels in August. I’m thinking about doing another trip in the summer of 2019, let me know if you’re interested in hearing more. Photos below were taken in Chichicastenango by Leander Khil.

XOXO,

Mari

mari@kakawdesigns.com

Chichicastenango_Guatemala_2018_14

Chichicastenango_Guatemala_2018_45.jpg

Chichicastenango_Guatemala_2018_76

Chichicastenango_Guatemala_2018_75

<Find the items in New Arrivals section of our website>

SCARFSEASON celebrate with 20% off!

It’s getting chilly these days… are you feeling the beautiful autumn breeze, too?

This is one of my favorite seasons, one that I’ve missed in Guatemala since it’s always spring there (really, that’s not a complaint – I love spring, too!).  This year, I’m in Austria working on my master’s in Sustainable Development, and I’m so glad I brought along a few scarves.  I’m a little worried for winter, I’m sure it will be the coldest in my life yet.  I will definitely be carrying around my handwoven + naturally-dyed scarves with me, all the time 🙂

DSC_3363-547x607

Are you feeling chilly, too? Take 20% off all scarves with code SCARFSEASON until Sunday, October 22nd.  Order two and we’ll include a handmade Luggage Tag as a gift 😉

Some of my favorites this season:

1

Rebozo del Lago, a wide and cozy shawl dyed with plants.  Handwoven + intricate ikat designs. (Retail $200)

IMG_4693 2.JPG

Naturally-dyed footloom scarves in Indigo and Plum. (Retail $75)

<<See more of our ethical scarves>>

 

I hope you’re enjoying the beautiful change of seasons, the trees changing colors, losing leaves, the fresh breeze but still some warm sunshine peeking through, too.

XOXO,

Mari

Why We’re Crowdfunding to Grow our Handmade Business

Note: This post was originally published on Eco Warrior Princess.

kickstarter-banner-with-circle-logo

By Mari Gray

Many people have asked me how I first got started with my artisan-made business Kakaw Designs. The short answer is this: through a small Kickstarter project for $2000. That was my way of figuring out if people liked the idea of custom-made boots using traditional Guatemalan textiles. The answer was yes, and we’ve grown so much in the three years since inception.

Now, we’re doing another Kickstarter project (until November 20, 2016) and I want to explain why.  Because clearly, ours is an existing business, not a recently launched one.

And it’s been going really well. So why another crowdfunding campaign? There are three main reasons…

We want to shift our business to work more with women artisans.

We started the business using beautiful repurposed textiles here in Guatemala. But the goal has always been to focus on our work with weavers and embroiderers. Because by working together for new textile designs, we are more directly contributing to supporting these dying traditions.

The downside is that this is more costly both in time and money. There is always trial and error involved, and the cost of making even samples is much higher because we need to prepare an entire loom of the commissioned textile. This all makes sense, it’s fair and that is how it should be, but it is an additional challenge that comes with ethical practices.

https://player.vimeo.com/video/103011633

We want to balance both direct sales and wholesale.

This has been a challenge. In order to get into different retailers, we’ve had to increase our final price on some products, and develop new products specifically with wholesale in mind.

Related Post: 4 Most Common Dilemmas of an Artisan Made Brand

So in case this is all new to you, this is how it works: Kakaw Designs sells 10 bags to Boutique A, and this is called “wholesale.” Boutique A then sells those 10 bags at a mark-up (they’re a business too, of course) and so the price generally doubles from wholesale to final retail. But in order to keep our final prices aligned both in stores and online, some adjustments had to be made, which means that we’re probably losing some direct sales beacause of the price increase.

This is a tricky balance that we’re still trying to figure out. How much should we dedicate to wholesale, and how much to direct online sales? We don’t have a clear answer yet, but we do realize that we need to have both things going for us – both wholesale and direct sales.

We want to have our products ready-to-go, which means stocking plenty.

All our bags and accessories are ready for quick shipping both in Guatemala and in the US. We have a shipping person in the US so that our delivery time is reduced. She also ships international orders because it’s just not feasible to ship directly from Guatemala to the UK, for example. We also keep stock here in Guatemala to sell within the country at different retailers, and people come to me directly as well. Word of mouth is a powerful thing!

hummingbird-palo-de-la-vida-weaving

This is all great, don’t get me wrong. The business is expanding; we are growing. But again, the extra stocking investment is something we can feel as a small business.

Related Post: What Launching an Ethical Fashion Brand Really Looks Like

That’s why Kickstarter.

We’re using this platform to take pre-orders on our newest products focusing on increasing the impact with the women – for weaving and embroidery. The groups of orders are not even that big (ex. 10 Picnic Blankets), but it just means that we can go into production mode without having to invest in stock first, and wait around for a potential sale. By taking pre-orders, those products already have new homes, and that way we can also reduce our prices per product. We’re also not undercutting any wholesale opportunities because this is a one-time only project, limited-time. The prices will increase once the products make their way to our website. We’ve already developed the new products, and now we’re ready to gear up for production.

corte-wrap-2

I feel like sometimes there’s so much emphasis placed on the growth of a business, it can seem like a linear, positive progression. I think growth is good, but it does come with its own challenges. Kakaw Designs is at a critical point right now, one that I’m sure many small businesses have experienced as well.

It’s a great, exciting step for us in increasing our social impact and staying true to our mission of working with female artisans here in Guatemala. It’s the perfect opportunity to check our work and make sure that we are on the right path. And joining forces and grouping orders allows us to take that next step with ease.

Want to support the Kakaw Designs on Kickstarter? Check out the Kickstarter campaign here.

Why (another) Kickstarter?

kickstarter-banner-with-circle-logo

That’s right, we’ve done this before.  We started what is now Kakaw Designs three years ago with a little $2000 Kickstarter project.  It went well, and that’s how we’re here today.

So… Why another Kickstarter project, you ask?

Excellent question!  Here’s why:

As we’ve grown (in three years we’ve expanded from only boots to now shoes, bags, and accessories), we’ve also felt the effects when it comes to stocking and development of new designs.  Every new product takes trial and error to develop, and we now also maintain stock both in Guatemala and the US, for fast-delivery.  This is all great, but it just means more costs associated with growth.

20160518_131754-copy

This all has made it more challenging to work with artisans from step 1, because it means more investment in trial and error.  But that’s the whole reason why we started Kakaw Designs – to work with artisans.  So we want to jump start the production of our newest products specifically focusing on work with women artisans (for weaving and embroidery) by bunching orders together on the Kickstarter platform.  This allows us to skip the stocking investments and go directly to sales – and that means that we can lower our prices.  It’s truly win-win for everyone.

Indigo Footloom Scarves, Kakaw Designs

Partner weavers Irma and Francisca

With that said, we’ve got so many goodies, make sure to take a look!  And even if you’re not looking to buy anything right now, you can help us by spreading the word.  So please share the project with your friends!  ☺️

kickstarter-sign-laptop-sleeves

We’re crazy about our new wraps

We love all our products, of course (that’s why we make them) but we’re really excited about our wraps in particular.  Here’s why:

Hummingbird Wrap in Palo de la Vida

Hummingbird Wrap in Palo de la Vida

They are naturally-dyed and handwoven by our talented partner cooperative.  We’re always thinking of how to incorporate more textile into our pieces, and well our scarves are 100% textile, and that means more support for the weavers.

Francisca Scarves

Francisca, the founder of our partner cooperative of weaves, smiles with our new wraps.

They are luxuriously wide!  20 inches of gorgeousness.

Hummingbird Wrap in Cochinilla.

Hummingbird Wrap in Cochinilla.

They are 100% cotton and oh-so-soft.

Quetzal Wrap

Quetzal Wrap

They come in so many different colors, and make the perfect accessory to complete an outfit.

DSC_3501

Scarves make excellent holiday gifts!

DSC_3487

CHECK IT OUT:

We’re having a pre-holiday sale!!  We’ve got so much coming up that quite honestly we want to make sure we can meet all the demand for the holidays, by spacing out our orders.  So from now until November 7th, get 25% off boots and 20% off everything else on kakawdesigns.com, including our brand-new wraps!

25% off boots with code: preholidayboots

20% off everything else with code: preholidaygoodies

ENJOY!