Telling Stories Through Weaving

The beauty of the shapes, patterns and colors of the intricate weavings done by the women of the Wayuu tribe is absolutely mesmerizing! Taking almost a month to complete a bag, Wachila knows the importance of paying their weavers a fair wage, and helping them increase their income with the beautiful work they produce. Not only are the workers paid fairly, all Mochila bags are made from eco-friendly materials! It is a win-win for us sustainable shoppers.

Tell us about Wachila and how sustainability is incorporated into your organization.

Wachila is a socially driven business that promotes fair trade practices bringing to our customers unique handmade goods made by artisans who reflect their cultural heritage and ancient techniques. We ensure that artisans are paid fairly for their work making each purchase ethical while contributing to their community's economic growth.

Wachila started in May 2015 when I came across an article in a Colombian newspaper about corruption in La Guajira and how more than 4.000 children have died of malnutrition. The region gets over $250 million in annual royalties from the government, however, this financial support does not trickle down to the poorest of the population. 

Many businesses exploit the Wayuu women, paying them below fair prices for their bags and then they sell it with huge margins to the most exclusive shops around the world. What shocks me the most is to see many called “designers” selling the bags as their own work without giving credit to the Wayuu women. For me it is very important to highlight that each design incorporated into every mochila bag is unique to the weaver, telling a story through the bag's colors, patterns and shapes.  Through their creations, they express their relationship with the nature that surrounds them, such as the footprints of animals on the sand, the eyes of insects, the shells of turtles, the leaves of plants, the stars in the sky, flowers, and many other figures.

Sustainability is incorporated in everything we do in Wachila. We work directly with the Wayuu women providing them work, we pay fair prices for their products, we highlight their work and give them the recognition they deserve and we contribute to improve their quality of life. 

We are Ecofriendly and ensure that all our products are made using natural materials processed in non-harmful ways to the environment with little to no use of electrically powered machinery. Even our tags and business cards are made with ecological paper.

My mom is my right hand in this business. She lives in Colombia, and together we choose every single bag, take care of all the little details, the shipping, the labels and tags. We are constantly on the phone or on skype calls and that is also a great thing Wachila has brought to my life, as we have become closer than ever. 

What types of products do you offer?

We have a wide range of products: bags, clutches, bracelets, backpacks, wallets, beach bags, hats, and we have recently partnered with a Greek brand that produces beautiful handmade sandals.

How long does it take to complete just one bag?

It depends on the size, but it takes up to 30 days to complete a big bag. It also depends on the intricacy of the patterns. For a regular size it is more like 20 days.

Also, there are two kinds of “mochilas”, they can be hand-knitted by one or two strands of thread.

The one thread mochilas are the ones we currently sell. They are premium quality as the knitting is very tight which makes them more sturdy, resistant and lightweight. 

The two thread mochilas are the most common and easy to find. They take 10-15 days to weave. We are soon also going to offer this kind so as to have a more affordable option for our customers.

Tell us a little bit about your partner Cleo.

Cleo is a consulting agency working in the humanitarian field. It was founded by Cécile Lavergne, an astounding French woman who has been working since 2008 in Colombia with many NGOs and as a consultant in humanitarian issues for many entities such as the European Union, Oxfam Intermon, Oxfam GB, GIZ, AGH. We first contacted Cécile looking for advice in which ways Wachila could help the Wayuu tribe and talking to her we found many synergies between her work and Wachila’s social vision. We then decided to work together in a partnership because we have no doubts about her commitment and integrity.

For example, one of the projects they have is the “liter of light” project. The goal of this project is to bring eco-friendly bottle light to communities living without electricity. The device is simple: an old plastic bottle is filled with water plus a little bleach to inhibit algal growth and fitted into a hole in a roof. It’s powerful enough to light up a home but more than that it’s environmentally friendly, inexpensive, and easy to make.

In la Guajira, where most of the houses don’t have electricity, projects like this can make a big difference in improving quality of life of the community.

What are the future plans for Wachila? 

We will love to see Wachila products in shops all over the world! We are currently developing some ideas to expand our product line and we want to continue creating partnerships with artisans from all over the world especially from Latin America. 

Shop Wachila online, and follow on Facebook & Instagram. 

Natalie Kay