Chilpa: Handmade and fairly traded products from Mexico

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UK-based Mexican fashion brand Chilpa is producing a new range of contemporary products made with traditional Mexican scarves (known as rebozos). A rebozo is a long flat garment similar to a scarf, used since colonial times to cover up and carry babies, and for centuries they have been made in small-home based workshops on mechanical foot looms. The use of these weaving looms requires no fossil fuels or electricity so it has minimal environmental impact, and they are dyed by hand in small batches. Chilpa’s rebozos are made with a traditional ikat technique (where the cotton is tied together previous to dyeing then untied to reveal the pattern).

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Unlike other new brands, Chilpa’s products champion slow fashion – moving away from the reliance on globalised mass produced garments sold at low prices to favour close collaboration with the people they work with and reinvesting a percentage of the profits to train a new generation of artisans. Chilpa treats the artisans who make its products as its own internal employees, as they believe that the fashion business’ archaic model needs an upgrade – moving away from low wages and poor working conditions, fostered by many people’s belief that fashion is cheap and disposable. As a way of changing this mind-set, every one of Chilpa’s products celebrates the artisan who made it by including their name and portrait on the label attached to it.

“I set up Chilpa because I was tired of Mexican mis-representations in the media in so many negative ways. I had also seen how fashion designers became famous by using rebozo fabrics, without acknowledging the people who made it and I wanted to do the opposite”, explains Maru Rojas, Chilpa’s founder.

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Maru worked with a professional fashion designer and seamstress in London to produce a new range of practical yet beautiful bags incorporating the fabrics of the rebozos. Local seamstresses, working in small workshops rather than factories, manufacture all the bags in Mexico. Most of the bags use eco-friendly jute fabric as an alternative to cotton. Chilpa is committed to responsibly sourcing all their materials and ensuring the production process pays a fair wage to all those employed.

Chilpa is raising funds via a rewards-based crowdfunding campaign on Kickstarter to help produce this new range of products ranging from tote bags to exclusive silk rebozos. All items can be pre-ordered until October 7th, 2015. Check out the campaign here.

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