Fashion: An Interview With Wayiro

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Hello over there, I would like to introduce you to a brand that spits lyrical about fair trade, supporting women and putting the love back into their community. There is fashion that works to make us feel fine all over and then there is fashion that does all of that with the added bonus of giving heart the size of a Mister Whippy Truck.

Wayiro is a brand that cares.

Originating in Colombia, this badass brand works exclusively with the women of the Wayuu tribe through a fair trade agreement that not only allows the women of the community financial independence, but also works in aiding the entire community’s social projects including language programs, education and mothers who are sole providers for their families.

The story behind Wayiro is inspiring and proves that we are able to create a business that is profitable as well socially conscious. By helping struggling communities that ultimately have so much to offer, Wayiro is teaching us that you can go out and snag your dreams without ever forgetting where you came from. One could say that they’re still Jenny; from the Block.

 

This week I have been so fortunate to speak with the brains behind the project, Salomon and Connie to let you know a lil’ more about their work and what it means for the Wayuu tribe. We did a 5 Questions to Get to Know Ya Party, and this is what they had to say.

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Tell us about Wayiro and yourselves. What drove you to create such an inspiring project?

We had always wanted to create an entrepreneurial project that would also have social impact. Furthermore, being Colombian, we saw promoting the unique cultures in our country as an inspiring route to do this. The Wayuu community was specifically interesting to us not just given their gorgeous handmade pieces, but also due to their struggles, their vulnerability, and the lack of attention given to their specific needs. We identified that artisan and handmade products were beginning to be a trend worldwide, which is where we saw the perfect opportunity to promote Wayuu creations through a socially sustainable brand that gives Wayuu artisans what they deserve while also being a profitable project.

 

You have provided the Wayuu tribe with such a unique yet wonderfully empowering opportunity to continue their traditions as well as engaging in a new business that can provide them with independence. What was the initial reaction to this idea within your community as well as the Wayuu Tribe itself?
Wayiro works with a non-profit organization called Fundacion Talento Colectivo. This non profit works as a bridge between the Wayuu community and Wayiro. Through this organization, we ensure that everything is done through fair trade and that social projects catered to the Wayuu’s specific needs, such as language programs, education, and financing of mothers who are the heads of their families, are successfully implemented. Thus, we communicate through this organization that is specialized in understanding Wayuu needs. Wayiro has been of great help to the entire project, as it burst sales and gave artisans further earnings at a given time. Although communication with the Wayuu tribe is sometimes challenging due to past difficulties and injustices they have faced (such as unfair pay or exploitation), they have generally responded very well to this project, which finally pays them what they deserve and gives them further benefits.

 

Tell us a little about the process of creating these beautiful bags. How long does it take to make one bag by hand?

One bag usually takes a month to make. It is hand crochet by the sea in the Guajira desert region of Colombia. Wayiro only sells one-of-a-kind bags with exclusive designs. Each bag is woven by a woman that has usually learned from her ancestors, and that supports her entire family through this art. Usually Wayuu women crochet specific symbols and homages to nature in their pieces. Each design is entirely created by each woman, making each bag absolutely unique.

 

Wayiro is a brand that empowers the women of the Wayuu tribe and promotes fair trade and equality in partnership. What is one piece of advice you would give other aspiring entrepreneurial activists?
Our first piece of advice would be to always be sure of where you are getting your products from. Always keep in mind whether things are actually fairly made and traded. We began our project with a group of Wayuu women that lived in Bogotá but travelled to la Guajira and paid them what we thought was fair. What we did not realize is that the hard work being put into the whole process was not being justly compensated. We began investigating on fair trade within the Wayuu community, and thus realized that our products were not the socially empowering products we wanted for our brand. This is when we discovered Fundacion Talento Colectivo and began working through them in order to ensure fair trade. Thus, always make sure you know the entire process and “story” of your product, so that you can actually make a difference and have a socially sustainable brand.

 

What can we expect to see from Wayiro in the coming years?
We are expecting to offer different types of products with the Wayuu crochet, such as backpacks, wristbands, and even jackets! Furthermore, we would like to create alliances with creative artisan brands from other countries that may have completely different concepts. We believe that Wayiro goes very well with many types of brands and occasions – you can wear your Wayiro at the beach or during a New York winter, and we would love to show this through uniting Wayiro with different styles. Finally, we want to create a more direct connection in between the customer and our social projects, allowing for direct donations and customers deciding what specific cause they would like to contribute to. 

Check out their latest pieces on the official website and keep in touch for updates. Love love love love.
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