Alida, tell us a little about yourself. Where are you from? What do you do? What inspires you? Who was Alida before MARIAS?
I am a proud Guatemalan and the mother of a lively young boy. I am also a social entrepreneur and the founder of MARIAS. It’s a luxury handbag company that incorporates artisanal techniques in our designs, and Ix Chebel. That is a leather accessories manufacturing company located in Guatemala City where we create MARIAS and manufacture for other brands.
Before starting MARIAS, I tried many different things and have worked in a variety of fields. I was a curious and academic child who was very focused on my studies. When I was fifteen, a friend convinced me to participate in Miss Teen Guatemala, which is how I got into modeling. I was signed with an agency in Miami and traveled a lot while I was completing school, which made me independent at a very young age. It opened my eyes to so many places and things, which was really inspiring. Through modeling, I was introduced to the world of fashion by walking in runways, meeting photographers, and seeing different collections.
However, traveling also made me closer to my roots and made me appreciate Guatemala. I always had big dreams and wanted to do something that would positively impact my country. A friend of mine once said, “If your dreams aren’t big, they aren’t dreams” and that always stuck with me. I always wanted to do things differently and worked hard to achieve large goals.
How did you begin with MARIAS? What was the spark that inspired you?
After I won Miss Guatemala, I had the opportunity to travel to different areas within the country. It opened the doors to see remote regions I would not have been able to access. It was during this time that I saw all these artisanal techniques that were so exquisite and intricate.
I was also deeply inspired by the women I met on my travels who are fighters and the pillars of support for their families, and yet still had so much love to put into their craft. They gave me a huipil on my travels and I received so many compliments on it, even outside of Guatemala. That’s where the seed of Marias was planted. I knew I had to showcase these beautiful techniques and bring it to other areas of the world while also giving these strong women the vehicle to devote time to their craft while being paid justly for their art.
What is your biggest achievement with MARIAS?
My biggest achievement with MARIAS has been my success with transmitting the value of the textiles to new audiences and showcasing the textiles in an elevated yet wearable way. We were the first to use these textiles in untraditional ways and now there are other companies who are using these textiles, which is good for these artisans because it brings them business and respect.
What is your dream? Where do you see yourself in the future?
My dream is for Marias to become a worldwide name representing the Latin culture and heritage. I see Marias growing and being present in all the different capitals in the world. We will also continue to grow our network and keep on empowering our artisans. We have a lot of exciting things in store for the future. I plan for Marias to expand in different products and lines.
What are the biggest challenges when it comes to working in fashion industry, introducing a new brand, and with that, becoming a fashion icon?
Introducing a new brand is always difficult. Fashion is such a competitive market and there are so many other brands and amazing things out there. There are always learning curves when you are starting out. It is hard to find the right retail price that is fair for production and for the customers since there is so much competition with fast fashion brands that sacrifice quality for lower prices and do not treat their employees correctly. It is sometimes a challenge to try to educate and inform people to a path of more environmental and ethical responsibility.
What is the thing you enjoy the most of your work?
It’s hard to pick a favorite thing that I enjoy because each part of the process has its own beauty. I definitely enjoy working with the artisans and seeing all the amazing things that these women do.
I also love working in the factory and seeing all the new leathers and hardware come together and I also love collaborating with my creative team on new ideas. Since we produce MARIAS and other brands in the Ix Chebel Factory, I get to be involved in all parts of the creation process so every aspect is enjoyable for me. Another thing I enjoy is seeing other women wearing my bags and loving them as much as I do.
What is your dream for the world? What message would you like to share to our audience?
We are at a point with so many crises in the world where there is horrible war and we’re seeing families being separated. My dream for the world is for us to transcend our differences and be better versions of ourselves, starting with myself. Sometimes it’s easy to think we can’t make a difference but if we start enacting change within ourselves we will inspire positivity in others.
*images obtained from MARIAS’s web page