mazonia-missions-wayuu-colombie-cottonandtravel

While travelling across Colombia, I did a voluntary work with the women from the Wayuu community and I had the chance to discover their beautiful ancestral know-how. Since generations, these women from La Guajira, in the north of Colombia, make with love beautiful and colorful bags with designs displaying their culture. I immediately felt in love with these amazing pieces but during my voluntary work, I also discovered the fragility of this community and the problems they have to face: poverty, discrimination, loss and appropriation of their know-how, deterioration of their environment, descholarisation.

Tourists can find these Wayuu bags in so many local markets around 10 dollars… But what is the True Cost behind these bags? Tourists need to understand that, most of the time, these bags have been bought to this women by a middleman for a trifle, despite hours or weeks of work… This deal happens in general without respectinh the women, unable to calculate or even sometimes to speak Spanish. So, they don’t have any right to examine their selling price and depend totally on the middleman’s willing.

In addition to this problem, their designs are copied by a lot of Western brands which took over their art and know-how. The prices of these bags are often exorbitants and the women gain a ridiculous percentage on it!

I was so happy to discover these two French girls, Jeanne & Daphnée, who created Mazonia, a brand of Wayuu bags, supporting and preserving know-how of the community and helping to improve their life conditions. We have the same passion for travels but also we have our heart set on preserving ancestral art and culture of a country… of a community… You probably know now that this is my main goal while I am travelling ! So I am really happy to share this interwiew I made, so you can discover these two amazing designers !

  • [Cotton & Travel]
Hello Jeanne & Daphnée. I am really happy to share your brand’s story with my readers. So how did you meet and how did Mazonia begin?
mazonia-missions-wayuu-colombie-cottonandtravel
  • [Mazonia (Daphnée) ]
I traveled alone across South America for 5 months after my studies. I was thirsty for adventures and wild landscapes. Bye Bye small offices, small seats of the tube, small rooms to rent. I wanted to see canyons, jungles, deserts… And to sweat streams or to shiver like never before. I needed to live intensely, you see?
Also, if I decided to travel is because the work system was not replying to my expectations anymore. To go into the working life thinking I will not be so happy was not an option for me. I didn’t want to work so long with no passion… and  be bored or frustrated. This travel was supposed to help me challenging myself and overstep the mark.
Jeanne and I was building the same project (to sell in France, ancestral Wayuu craft with a social and ethical project behind ). We had the same Wayuu contact: Lisandro.
Fate decided that I call Jeanne for an advice, in November 2017 while I was lost in the Argentinian Pampas, in a biological farm quiet hippie ! 🙂 The call last for 2 hours and we concluded three things: We really got on well, we had the same project with the idea of giving back to the artisans and their families. And the last thing was that we really complemented one another. Jeanne come from the fashion industry and she is a graphic designer; and I work in communication, marketing and sales. I was actually looking for someone with the same profile as Jeanne to collaborate on my project once going back to France. I didn’t have to wait as during this call, without seeing each other for real, we decided to go into partnership ! So during 2 months, until I came back to France, we had to work at a distance from each other and we lived the difficulties of bad internet connection with Skypes, jet lags, etc. But, it didnt’ discourage us and Jeanne will go back to Colombia mid of June, so, this work practice is still topical !
  • [Cotton & Travel]
So, how did you dicover the Wayuu craft and why did you choose to support for this cause?
  • [Mazonia ( Daphnée) ]

Most of the time, when you travel, the route you take is shaped depending on chance and the people you meet. I was not supposed to visit the north of Colombia, La Guajira, but a backpacker I met, asked to me to go with him and that’s how I arrived in La Riohacha. While walking in the streets I saw on the floor so many Wayuu bags to sell and I immediately felt in love ! I wanted to know more about it. So, I met communities with my guide Lisandro, also Wayuu, and I discovered their culture and traditions and, of course, their know-how to weave « mochilas » .  That was the cause I was hoping to find and to give my all time!

It’s important to be firmly convinced of the potential and the beauty of the product you work for. When you are passionate by what you do, people are more likely to follow your adventures, and so, it becomes a collective project ! And, when I discovered all the humanitarian challenges behind the Wayuu bags, I decided to create a fairtrade project, helping this community.

mazonia-missions-wayuu-colombie-cottonandtravel
mazonia-missions-wayuu-colombie-cottonandtravel
  • [Cotton & Travel]
What are Mazonia’s missions?
  • [Mazonia]:
Wayuu people are facing a lot of difficulties, like infant mortality. It was clear for us to build a brand which will improve their life conditions. It was also important for us to carry out a professional activity with a humanitarian challenge creating a fullfiling purpose. Jeanne & I, were on the same wavelength.
mazonia-missions-wayuu-colombie-cottonandtravel
mazonia-missions-wayuu-colombie-cottonandtravel
  • [Cotton & Travel]
How would you describe your brand in 3 words?
  • [Mazonia]:
Solidarity – Know how – Originality
mazonia-missions-wayuu-colombie-cottonandtravel
  • [Cotton & Travel]
What does Mazonia mean?
  • [Mazonia]:
Mazonia reminds the Amazonian jungle, bringing in mind the same issues as our brand: it’s the lung of earth, symbolizing hope and optimism despite it’s terrible situation. Also, Amazonia represents a lot of native people.
  • [Cotton & Travel]
What are you the most proud of, since you begun your brand?
  • [Maonia]:
We have just launched the brand, so for now, we are proud to spread the Wayuu craft. But we are also very happy to see that our kikstarter campaign on the webiste Ulule is a success and people are supporting us! It’s only the middle of the kikstarter and we already fulfilled 170% of our objectives! Thanks to this money, we will be able to produce the bags and to support several humanitarian projects for the Wayuu people.
mazonia-missions-wayuu-colombie-cottonandtravel
  • [Cotton & Travel]
    Congratulations! That’s amazing ! 🙂

    So just to explain to the readers… Ulule is a crowfunding website where you can financially help young brands like Mazonia with fairtrade / humanitarian projects. This helps them to raise funds that requires the launch of a brand: production, logistic, communication, website or shops, etc. Here is the link of the crowfunding campaing if you want to help them, you have until the 14th of June ! https://fr.ulule.com/mazoniaofficial/

So, what do you hope for your brand for the next 5 years?

mazonia-missions-wayuu-colombie-cottonandtravel
  • [Mazonia]:

In 5 years, we would like to work with several associations to widen our actions on Wayuu communities. Of course, we would like to have a steady business and arrive in European markets as Spain, Italy, etc. We would like to be the first brand of Mochilas Colombianas !

  • [Cotton & Travel]
In what is it more difficult to build a sustainable / ethical fashion brand?
  • [Mazonia]:
The big challenge in ethical brands is transparency! You have to know how to communicate, so the consumers understand what you stand for and support you! We also need to be very strict on our production process. Big fashion brands can close their eyes on many things but when you are a small brand you are gone over with a fine-tooth comb. So, you need to know your products, and also your suppliers inside out about their work conditions and ethical practices.
We have the chance to have a simple product with no spare parts. The only raw material is the ball. So, it’s easier in comparison with sneakers, for example, which require, plastic, rubber, metal…. The production line is more complex!
mazonia-missions-wayuu-colombie-cottonandtravel
  • [Cotton & Travel]
For my last question, I would like to know what you think about the future of sustainable / ethical fashion?
  • [Mazonia]:
The slow fashion movement is underway ! Consumers begin to realize the bad impacts of fashion on the environment. A lot of new designers appear and showcase sustainable practices but the most important & difficult change is regarding big Fast Fashion brands. These brands align with the consumer’s needs so their future behaviour & mentality are decisive to make them change their non ethical practices…
Meanwhile, a lot of new young brands offer sustainable alternatives and optimism prevails ! We believe in our future and we also need to educate and make consumers fully aware of the fashion impacts on people and environment. Buying consciously once a year will not made enough changes. We need a deep change !

I invite you to know more about Mazonia on their Facebook and do not forget to support their kikstarter campaign, until the 14th of June !

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