As consumers, we may have encountered the concept of cultural appropriation. It covers how companies take symbols, designs and techniques from traditional cultures without giving much back to the people whose way of life and traditions are often under pressure.
I have chosen Guanbana as our partner in Colombia, because their motivation for being in Colombia is to try to make a change in the artisans life's. All products are made in collaboration with the communities who originally invented them. The bags are made in northern Colombia, where the Wayuu people have lived for thousands of years. The often colorful designs that characterize the traditional style has existed for countless generations.
The importance of durability when it comes to wayuu bags
Wayuu is the largest ethnicity in Colombia. In the south there are lush rainforests, but on the northern La Guajira peninsula, where the Wayuu are traditionally from, you are met with hot and dry desert. It is from these conditions the different designs of wayuu tote bags have emerged. The bags must be able to withstand sun, sand, heat, and the long walks up and down the steep hills of the Colombian desert landscape. Quality and durability are a necessity under these conditions.
The Wayuu people have a unique culture in many ways: They speak their own language, and their traditions do not always reflect the increasing modernization of the society around them. For example, the Wayuu typically live in very small village communities also called Rancherías. They are all matriarchal societies, which means that it is the woman who is the head of the family. It is the mother's surname that is inherited by the children, and it is the women who control the economy and act as progenitors of culture.
A unique relationship between mother and daughter reflected in every tote bag design
Although the last ten years have seen an increase in the number of Wayuu men who have begun to learn the crochet craft, the tote bag is still something special in the relationship between mother and daughter. This is because the various clans within Wayuu have their very own craft techniques and traditions, which since the beginning have been inherited through the mother. That is, although the expression of each weaver is unique, it is at the same time a reflection of countless generations of mothers.
Sustainable tote bags
When we have the philosophy that “less is more”, it is because we believe the best thing we can do for our planet is, buy less and use what we have for longer. The quality of our products, are therefore essential to ensure their durability.
We believe that we are socially sustainable since our products actually help support the continuation of an important cultural heritage from Latin America. Our prices reflects a sincere recognition of what it means that craftsmanship takes time and requires experience to master.
Fabric that is made to last
Our tote bags are made of 100% acrylic. This does not sound very sustainable, but in reality, the answer is not as simple as one might think. Looking at our tote bags as an example, the Wayuu deliberately use acrylic today because it is a very durable material (more durable than organic materials), which makes it last for several years without being torn or significantly damaged.
Therefore, we should consider whether something is made more sustainable by being manufactured in a relatively gentle way. If it doesn’t do much to help a 'throw away' society to take a hard look at its own consumption patterns we still have a long way to go. Put simply, you can easily mass-produce clothes from organic cotton, without it becoming sustainable for that reason.
Facing up to the throw-away society
It was the cause of public debate when Danish national media reported on research findings that consumers would have to use a cotton tote bag over 7,000 times before it is more sustainable than the average plastic bag from the supermarket. In other words, you would have to use the same cotton tote bag for 19 years before it has covered its own environmental footprint.
There are few ordinary tote bags that anyone probably wishes to have for 19 years straight, and even fewer that even last that long in all kinds of weather to begin with. Again, we return to our point from the beginning: Sustainability is not just about material, economic or social aspects - but that it is actually about all three at the same time.
At britt_marie_kbh we maintain our belief that if you wish to do the right thing for the environment, and for your own conscience, then you have to identify the essentials and leave out the rest. Invest in clothes, including tote bags that are made with care and made to last.