Mexico is a multicultural country.
According to the Commission for the Development of Indigenous Peoples (CDI), Mexico has the biggest indigenous population in the Americas. There are between 11 and 16 million indigenous people, most of them living in 28 out of 32 states in the country. They belong to 68 communities and speak more than 360 language varieties other than Spanish. Indigenous people preserve ancient traditions, culture and wisdom.
Despite their importance and contribution to humanity, indigenous people and their communities often live in a situation of profound social and economic inequality, often surrounded by poverty, lack of basic services and are targets of racism and discrimination.
One of the main cultural activities of indigenous people is handcrafts such as embroidery. Their art represents the heritage of hundreds of years of history, their vision of the world and the environment that surrounds them. For many years, I have bought clothing from indigenous communities during my visits back to Mexico, and it is always an honour to share a message through their handmade clothing.
During my research on the impact of fashion – especially fast fashion – on our society and environment, I came across Amanoarte and found them to be one of the inspiring initiatives that exists in Mexico. Last year, I was lucky enough get a present from Amanoarte from my family, a lovely aqua-colored shawl made by the Tzotzil community in Chiapas using natural dyes.
Amanoarte promote indigenous philosophy and art while empowering these communities with the aim of reducing the inequality experienced by this people. They are able to do this while also avoiding the model of massive production of clothing, and ensuring the artisans and designers are paid in a fair manner.
The Green Diary interviewed Amanoarte and this is what they said:
- What is the philosophy behind Amanoarte?
Our mission is to be a platform in which indigenous women and designers are empowered and that their projects and designs gain attention among the general public. Our vision is to ensure that our roots, our textiles, the indigenous embroidery and their worldview are maintained and respected.
- How and when was this business idea created?
The idea comes from a concept of fusing the garment of the indigenous women with the ‘modern’ woman, in order to be able to wear clothes with iconography and ancestral heritage, but adapted to the comfort and grace that women love in the modern age.
- Which communities do you work with and how is the relationship with indigenous people?
We work with various different communities, such as Tzotzil (Chiapas and Oaxaca), Maya (Quintana Roo, Chiapas and Guatemala), Wixárika (Huicholes, Jalisco, Nayarit and Michoacán), Nahua (Mexico City, Puebla, Veracruz, Hidalgo) and Teenek (San Luis Potosí).
We have a close relationship with each artisan group and we work hands-on with each community, always learning from them and, most importantly, respecting their worldview and traditions.
- What is the role of women in Amanoarte?
Women are the main component of the project, making up 90% of our staff. By supporting each other as women we will be able to empower and dignify the work of indigenous people in Mexico and around the world.
- What is the profile of the designers and what are the styles promoted?
Our designers are all Mexican, working directly together with indigenous artisans to design and make the clothing. A fundamental requirement in Amanoarte is to work under fair trade rules which for us means that the artisan sets the price of her work and we never undervalue it.
- What are the messages and meaning of indigenous embroidery?
The artisans create iconographic embroidery, which means that their needlework represents the icons that surround them in their communities and the symbols – such as birds, animals and flowers – that are important for them in identifying their communities.
For example, in the Huichol ethnic group, the artisans drink medicine (made from peyote) in a ritual ceremony and then create their designs based on dreams they experience, creating a piece of art made of embroidery and beads.
- In Amanoarte, each piece of garment is unique and there is no mass production of clothes. What are the reasons behind this business model?
Amanoarte is more than a commercial project. It is a social project.
Every piece of clothing made by the indigenous artisans takes time and effort to complete and, for many years, the work of indigenous artisans has been undervalued and left aside.
Amanoarte aims to set a real change through this initiative. We would like to regenerate the artisans’ network by ensuring the high quality of each product is properly rewarded and by giving a real value to each piece of work created by all people involved in this project.
- What are the aspects that make Amanoarte a sustainable and ethical business?
We work with sustainable materials, the artisans mainly use natural dyes and the entire process is handmade.
It is our ethos to follow the regulations that promote respect and care for our planet since it is the one that provides us with the elements for our survival.
For more information about Indigenous communities around the world and in Mexico click here.
For more information about Amanoarte’s work visit their page here.