Q’ab’aj (Hands): The mystical world of Guatemalan Mayan weavers


MARIAS hosted an event along with Young Professionals of Americas on Thursday, May 17 th that focused on how fashion can be used as a vehicle to preserve traditional techniques.


 

Click on the image above to watch the full panel.

 

The event featured a panel including MARIAS founder Alida Boer, Creative Director Edgar Navarro, fashion industry expert Mayte Allende, and Guatemalan artisans Indri Paola Reanda Vasquez and José Isais Tiney Sisay from the region of Santiago Atitlán. Here are their insights on the topic.

Alida Boer explained the idea of social entrepreneurship and the importance of creating a company that not only focuses on profit, but also positively impacting the community and creating a difference in the world. MARIAS incorporates these ideas through fashion by not only creating fairly paid jobs for female weavers and artisans, but also by creating a frame that preserves this beautiful weaving heritage by incorporating it with modern sensibility. “By sharing the story behind the textile, you’ll understand why it’s so important for us to preserve this beautiful legacy that we don’t just have as Guatemalans or Latins, but as humans,” says Alida. This reinterpretation of traditional garments helps preserve the textile heritage of Guatemala by giving value to these techniques in a contemporary sense.

The next speaker was Indri Paola Reanda Vasquez, a weaver and artisan from Santiago Atitlán. She spoke on the panel with her husband, José Isais Tiney Sisay, who is also an artisan. They are community leaders who work with more than 50 female weavers in their region to develop different traditional techniques such as embroidery, mostacilla, and waist loom. Together, they have helped develop and produce three collections for MARIAS, including the latest collection, Magnolia. Indri Paola spoke of the ancestral meaning and cultural significance of the huipil. “It is the expression of my love. This is my legacy. My grandparents, my ancestors are talking to me through my textiles” she says. Woven for her marriage to José, her huipil combines the symbols of her family and those of her husband’s, blending the marks of generations past and their hopes for the future to create a new piece of art. The birds within her textile represent her history and freedom her ancestors had in spirit during the Spanish rule. “If you wanted to get to know me, you would just look at my huipil. It tells the story of my life.”

 

 


“If you wanted to get to know me, you would just look at my huipil. It tells the story of my life.”


 

MARIAS Creative Director Edgar Navarro continued the discussion by explaining his process of respecting the techniques and artistry of the weaver while incorporating these textiles into his designs. As soon as he begins designing for a new collection, Edgar first does a lot of reading and research on the symbolism and depictions in each region. He then meets with the artisans like Indri Paola, who give Edgar additional insight into the weavings and work with him to create a design that is respectful of their heritage.

“Yes you are designing the bag, but you also have to consider that you are working with an artist. You don’t teach Picasso how to paint,” says Edgar on the collaboration with the artisans. “We are just the frame that are keeping these paintings alive.”

 


“Yes you are designing the bag, but you also have to consider that you are working with an artist. You don’t teach Picasso how to paint, we are just the frame that are keeping these paintings alive”


 

Former Fashion Director of WWD Mayte Allende gave additional insight on the importance of handmade fashion brands like MARIAS and the movement for more socially conscious designs. While Mayte has seen hundreds of collections of year, collections that tell a deeper story and have a social mission is what sticks out to her as an editor and consumer. Moving from fast fashion to handmade items that supports local industries is deeply important on an economic, social, and
environmental level.

“You see a brand like MARIAS that’s doing it locally and doing it in a more genuine way. As a consumer, not only as an editor, I think that’s what we all should be supporting. It’s necessary to shift into appreciating and supporting these works,” says Allende.

 

 

 

The night ended with an exchanging of textiles, which was a beautiful ritual performance performed by the newly wedded Indri Paola and José. José says a prayer with sacred instruments before working on the fabrics, which he will knot and dye to create an artwork called jaspé, which he crafts into a skirt for his new bride. While Jose works on Indri’s bridal skirt, she is weaving shorts for him to wear when they are wed. Both artisans demonstrate their love and future hopes for marriage through the textiles. This deeply moving and symbolic marriage ritual highlights how culturally significance these textiles are and the importance of preserving these artisanal traditions. In every MARIAS bag is not only a beautiful piece of art, but a story and deep cultural legacy that transcends generations.

 

 

“Having a mission and purpose is so important because fast fashion has affected everything to the point that us insiders in the industry are calling it disposable fashion and the connotations are so negative with what it’s doing to the planet and to the economy. As a brand, having a purpose, a mission, and a story it’s to us the long term solution to so many problems Not only environmental and social but economical. You see runway collections that have elements that are so beautiful that you admire so much like Valentino, which had a whole collection that was inspired by Guatemalan artisans and crafts. Then you see a brand like Marias that’s doing it locally and doing it in a more genuine way. As a consumer, not only as an editor, I think that’s what we all should be supporting. The conversation has always been the same but I feel like now it’s being discussed more. It’s necessary to shift into appreciating and supporting these works.