We are obsessed with Manos Zapotecas! If you haven’t heard or seen them before, we’re sure after this post you’ll fall in love with them inside and out. The brand’s unique bags are a beautiful Cultural Mixology between traditional hand-woven Mexican textiles and modern urban designs. Ethically manufactured, dedicated to fair trade principles and fashionably bold; Manos Zapotecas are much more than a bags, they are a stories, a culture, an art.
Q: What’s your foundation story? Who? When? Where? Why? We’d love to hear how it all began!
Manos Zapotecas began in 2012 when founder Shelly Tennyson was volunteering with a microfinance nonprofit in Oaxaca, Mexico called Fundación En Via. She was teaching business classes to women in the village of Teotitlan del Valle, where the indigenous Zapotec community has a strong tradition of weaving and most families still try to support themselves with their art. It dawned on her that no matter how beautiful the goods, and how business-saavy the women, with the state of the town’s oversaturated market, they could not make a living with their traditional craft.
Manos Zapotecas was started to perpetuate the beautiful traditions and superb artistry of the Zapotec people by connecting them with socially conscious consumers around the globe. Three years later, our purpose remains to improve the lives and community of the artisans of Teotitlan del Valle, one weaving at a time.
Q: We love your Name and Logo curious to see how it came about, what it represents and the story and inspiration behind it?
Our logo is a contemporary take on the Zapotec diamond – a nod to a symbol that has historical and cultural significance to our weavers. The hands in the image of course represent the “manos Zapotecas” – or Zapotec hands – an homage to the talented weavers. MZ is founded as a means to support the community and we always want the people to be at the heart of all we do. Additionally, the two hands working together resemble the logo of the Fair Trade Federation, of which we are a proud member, and we enjoy that connection represented in our logo.
Q: We absolutely love your designs? What’s your design and inspiration process? What makes your designs unique? What does your product line offer?
Many of the designs seen in the textiles are the same Zapotec patterns that the weavers’ ancestors etched into stone in the nearby Zapotec ruins of Mitla. Some images represent the physical world, such as mountains, rain and the agave plant, which others indicate the spiritual realm, such as the greca symbol that shows the interconnectedness of the life cycle, death and rebirth.
Our designers work closely with the weavers to incorporate traditional handwoven tribal designs with modern styles, the results of which are beautiful, expertly crafted and unique bags.
Q: We’d love to hear more about your collaboration with artisans and a little behind the scenes of your production? Do you have any stories with the artisans? How you work and collaborate with them? How you have helped them? What have you learned from them?
The creation of all MZ products is a complete collaboration between the master weavers in Teotitlan del Valle and our design team located in both California and Oaxaca.
For example, for the Spring 2015 Collection, our designers came up with a color palette and some new bag styles and then the weavers have full freedom to create new designs. When they present their new work, it’s the up to our team members from the US to pick out the ones we think will work well in the foreign market, or request specific changes.
Weavers have full ownership of their designs. They take tremendous pride in every step of the process, from dying the wool by hand, weaving each piece on a loom and sewing it into a bag. They then take it to a nearby town where a dedicated leather-worker completes the leather accents, after which the weavers sew in the lining and zipper. The last step is meticulously cleaning the wool with a fine comb and tweezers to make sure it is perfect. This is about as far as you can get from assembly line production, and we pride ourselves on that.
Check out Spring 2015 Collection Video Lookbook:
Q: We’d also love to hear about your Fair Trade commitment and overall brand Mission?
The purpose of Manos Zapotecas is to perpetuate the beautiful traditions and superb artistry of the Zapotec people of Oaxaca, Mexico by connecting them with socially conscious consumers around the globe. Manos Zapotecas strives to make a positive impact on the lives and communities of the artisans by nurturing lasting relationships and always abiding by fair trade principles.
As members of the Fair Trade Federation, we are guided by a set of 9 principals that ensure our business practices are based on dialogue, transparency, and respect to all involved. We take this responsibility very seriously, and are constantly striving to improve our business model in order to improve the lives and communities of our weavers.
Q: As a Fashion brand what’s your industry biggest accomplishment? Being featured magazine or blog? Worn by anyone we might know?
We have been fortunate enough to be featured on lots of fair trade, lifestyle and fashion blogs such as Let’s Be Fair, The Blond Latte, Braided Bliss, Stylewise, Linen, Lace and Love, The Wanerlustings and now Cultural Mixology!
We have some really exciting press opportunities coming this summer but we can’t talk about it yet …
Q: How in a couple of words how would you describe the Manos Zapotecas consumer?
The typical MZ consumer is a woman of truly any age who cares about social justice as much as she cares about fashion. She has taste for products that are stylish and unique, and she can tell the difference between a handmade item and one that is churned out by the thousands in a factory. She is discerning, caring, has an eye for beauty and a heart for helping.
Q: So now that we know you a little better, we’d love to know where we can find and buy Manos Zapotecas’ products?
Our entire line can be found on our website at www.mzfairtrade.com. Additionally, MZ products are stocked in boutique retailers across the United States.
Q: Anything else you’d love to share with us?
All Manos Zapotecas products have been manufactured by hand in every step of the process, according to time-honored Zapotec traditions and with tremendous love and pride.
Each MZ bag holds an element of discovery, from the significance of each Zapotec design, to the bold color combinations, and most importantly, of the hands from which they come.
All pictures used are copyright of Manos Zapotecas.
Hope you enjoyed our conversation with Manos Zapotecas. If you’d like to connect more with them check out their website and social media:
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Cultural Mixology curates, creates and motivates CULtural MIXing between the traditional Latin Cultures and the modern urban lifestyle. Fueled by Latin America, based in Miami. Follow us on instagram @culturalmixology