Tapping Indigenous Talent in Colombia to Create Modern Fashion

by nyljaouadi1
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On the world stage, Colombian fashion has become well known for its sophisticated use of hand-wrought ancestral techniques, from weaving and embroidery to beading. It is not uncommon to see a brightly colored Mochila bag — a staple accessory for most Colombians — or a typical palm straw hat on international catwalks or being worn by A-list celebrities.

With its Spanish Colonial mansions draped in bougainvillea and its centuries-old cobblestone streets, the walled city of Cartagena, on the country’s Caribbean coast, is an enchanting place to shop for a range of high-quality handmade accessories crafted by Colombia’s many artisan communities.

“While we still have a great tradition of artisans carrying on heritage handicrafts, we also have an amazing new school of designers incorporating these techniques into more modern designs,” said Cristina Consuegra, co-founder of Galavanta, a local travel company that curates personalized shopping experiences from high-end boutiques to family-owned shops.

“We reinterpret ethnic designs with new materials and technique, only the shape and name remain,” said Tomás Vera, Verdi’s co-owner and designer.

In her boutique near Plaza de Santa Teresa, visitors will find handmade designer bags created with Wayuu, Usiacurí and Malambo communities (from 600,000 pesos) alongside demi-couture evening gowns crafted with luxurious European fabrics (from 6 million pesos). “I find that juxtaposition unique and fascinating,” she said.

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