When we started planning 2021 at Wakami we started having conversations around sustainability; What it (really) meant? Who was defining it? How did it apply to Wakami?
Whenever we thought about sustainability from a design perspective, materials were all we could thinks of. How could we improve our materials to create long lasting sustainable products? Materials that took care of the earth and its people.
I started doing research on materials we used the most, thinking of the premise high impact – low cost. The more I read, the more confused I felt. Some said recycled cotton was the way to go, but then other articles suggested that it could only be recycled once to maintain quality, so it wasn´t really sustainable. Others said that recycled PET was a good option, other said that this was even worse than regular plastic because of the nano plastic particles that spread every time we wash the product. Then I found some pretty amazing innovative materials, but then again, they are still not available for common use.
A bit frustrated, I returned to the team at Wakami for some guidance. I started talking with Maria, our founder, and while talking about Wakami, our goals, strategies and sustainability, the word family kept coming up.
We at Wakami, as a company, our goal is not to be sustainable, or have sustainable products, but rather have sustainable families.
Still all our questions were not clear. But this time instead of going outside for answers we decided to look in, to go back to the communities. We went to Jocotán to visit a pilot project on regenerative agriculture run by Comunidades de la Tierra (our sister NGO). The goal for this project is to have sustainable families while balancing the ecosystem. Taking care of the earth while it takes care of us.
In this pilot project, the families start with chickens and herb and vegetable gardens. They produce their own food and at the same time generate income by selling this produce. All this while bringing diversity to the plot of land and enriching the soil and balancing the ecosystem.
After visiting a few parcelas we went to another town called Olopa to visit a group of women that work with natural lazo from Maguey. This was one of the most mesmerizing experiences I have had. In 45 minutes they showed us how they harvest the fibers from the Izote de Mezcal plant, spin it into thread and weave it into panels that become handbags. (Talking about traceability and transparency within a product. ) All while using their hands and simple self-made tools from wood.
After this long day of observing we gathered with Maria, with Kendall and Max from Comunidades de la Tierra, and us form the Design team and started talking about a new dream for Wakami.
A family with a plot of land with rich soil to grow different produce, with chickens that work the land and lay eggs. Along Izote plants that serve as rain barriers but also can be harvest and transform into thread and products that share this story. A family taking care of the earth while it takes care of them. A sustainable ecosystem. A sustainable family.
This bag tells this story. Made by a family from maguey thread harvest and spinned in Olopa, woven in traditional floor loom by another family in Totonicapán and assembled in Antigua Guatemala.