> Blog

Site Information

 Loading... Please wait...

Blog

Altering Expectations: Fair Trade Fashion in Guatemala

Posted by Melissa Millis on

ROOKIE EXPECTATIONS

Most of you don’t know me; my name’s Melissa. I work behind the scenes at Liz Alig. Nothing fancy: I ship orders and keep inventory updated. Sometimes I squeeze into the extra small sized samples to model for catalogs. For the most part, you could say I pretty well keep Liz organized and freed to do what she does best – design clothes and work directly with the groups of women she employs all over the world. While I know quite a bit about the process behind fair trade fashion, I’m still a rookie.

In September, samples for the spring line come in. Rather than shipping samples from Guatemala, we decide to make the trip, pick up the samples, and connect with all the people behind each part of the clothing production process. And Liz thought, “while we’re at it, let’s do the spring catalog shoot!” So, off we went to a country full of beauty, warm people, and delightful surprises. Our photographer friend, Nate, joined us.

This is not the first time I’ve traveled internationally with Liz. Six times, she’s traveled to Haiti with me to work with local artists I connected her with, years ago. But for this trip to Guatemala, she was in charge (as much as she hates that!). I was along for the ride – one that would prove to be delightfully full. This trip would alter my rookie expectations about the fair trade fashion industry, in a country I hadn’t yet explored.




FABRICATION ALTERATIONS

We started our journey in Guatemala City where we toured Iris, a factory that recycles clothing and specifically denim, spins new thread, and weaves fabric. This unique factory has secret processes for recycling that are only revealed to visitors - what a treat! It was incredible to be walked through the fabrication process and see what might otherwise end up in the trash, be given life and become wearable! All Liz Alig denim items are birthed right here, where Iris is altering the way fabric is woven.




ANCIENT-FUTURE FAIR TRADE FASHION

From the big city we continued onto Antigua where we spent the majority of our time. The cobblestone streets, colors, and doors within the city make for some great photos, despite the city’s touristy nature. Walking along the streets felt like stepping back in time.

Just a short tuk tuk ride away we visited the local seamstress, Gladys, employed by Liz Alig who works out of her humble home. Being able to work out of your home is the ancient-future reality of fair trade. Gladys warmly greeted us and showed us her studio. We discussed her work, fabric sourcing, and new designs. Much of the items Gladys sews are made from traditional corte or huipil. It took me a few minutes to realize that the corte pants I had on that day were sewn in the very room we were standing in, by the very person in front of me whose smile warmed my heart.

In the heart of Antigua, we visited Indigo and met Olga, who is one of the very few people in country to use completely natural dye processes. We learned about the various traditional, organic sources of her dyes – like avocado pit that produces a rich brown and cochinilla (a dried up bug!) that produces a warm pink. The color pallet created from her vast array of ancient, natural dyes was astonishing. The new ikat fabric produced from Olga’s threads altered my expectations for my wardrobe and the future possibilities for fair trade fashion.





EXPECTING UNIQUE

The next leg of our journey took us to beautiful Lake Atitlan. From quaint town to town we traveled by boat and landed a visit with Delfina at Casa Flor Ixcaco, a local weaving cooperative that uses the traditional back strap loom. This cooperative also utilizes special, locally grown brown cotton - ixcaco - native to Guatemala that grows on trees. Let’s just say I was not expecting such beautiful products, unique to every batch of rich brown cotton picked. We’re hoping to partner with the weaving cooperative for fabrics for future products. With fair trade fashion you can expect unique!




ALTERING EXPECTATIONS

We spent a few mornings putting Nate to work capturing images for the 2019 spring catalog. Of course, I had no problem wearing the one-of-a-kind clothes around the city! In between changing clothes and modeling for photo shoots we continued to explore and have our expectations altered as we tried the local pepian (a pumpkin stew), cacao, coffee, and fresh tortillas. Each part of the journey was full of unexpected delights, whether on foot or "chicken bus", stretching my Spanish speaking abilities or conversing with new people who felt like long-time friends. There is something beautiful, inspiring, and life-giving about learning exactly where your clothes come from and the impact that it has on real people. My fashion expectations have forever been altered.

Photos by Nate Canada - natecanada.com


Easy Ways to Refresh Your Summer Wardrobe

Here are a few easy ways to refresh your summer wardrobe this year... Because denim is so popular right now you really can't go wrong wearing any kind of denim - giving you the chance to try out a style of denim you wouldn't normally wear. Try some high waisted jeans, flared jeans, capris, denim [...]

Read More »


Bringing Back the 90's Style

Not sure if you all have heard, but the 90's style is back! It's been a while, so here is a little refresher of a few things that work again... Denim everything! Denim skirts, denim dresses, denim pants, you get the picture. Layer with a white t-shirt - better yet layer a spaghetti strap floral [...]

Read More »


LIZ ALIG FALL 2017 CATALOG

I just had the opportunity to travel back to Vienna where I studied for several months in college. My time back in this place reminded me what it taught me. While I traveled by miles and miles of alps, ate a million carbs a day, and discovered how to get lost in a new place—I [...]

Read More »


Five Tips for Buying Clothing more Ethically

This weeks marks the four year anniversary of the factory collapse in Bangladesh that killed over a thousand people.  While I don't talk very often about the reasons I started a fair trade clothing line - I do think it is important for us to think about the impact our purchases have on the world [...]

Read More »


15 Facts I Learned Through Netflix and Chill

By now, we have all heard of sustainability, fair trade, and fast fashion; but do we really know what these buzz words mean to the makers of our clothes? There are many documentaries out now providing stories about the garment workers and the conditions they work in, what they are working towards, and how we [...]

Read More »


Holiday Gift Guide

1.  Fatima Scarf - This product was made in Nashville by a group of refugees from around the world in partnership with Sew For Hope. This organization provides low cost sewing classes for adult refugees in order to give them a sense of worth and accomplishment while adding marketable skills that are valuable for earning [...]

Read More »


Outfit Inspiration for the Fourth of July

Summer is in swing and the Fourth of July is just right around the corner. We have styled four looks for the occasion! We are celebrating by giving you 40% off the entire website until June 30th just use the code summersale, but before you check out all our great merchandise check out what we would wear for [...]

Read More »