When we attended the Renegade Craft Fair on Saturday in Austin, I was on the hunt for cool street style looks to capture. A girl with gorgeous long hair and sun kissed skin caught my attention. One glance and you knew she was from the west coast. Wearing a pair of cutoff shorts with a beachy sweater and ankle boots, she had such an effortlessly cool vibe about her. She was wearing what looked to be friendship bracelets, but in ways that I had never seen before. She had them wrapped around her boots, tied in her hair and belted around her waist. Before getting her picture, she walked us down to her booth at renegade and introduced us to Seiba.
Ashley quickly showed us little tutorials on the way she was wearing these brightly colored weavings. I was so blown away at how versatile they were that I had to buy a couple. I’ve been wearing them around a pair of black boots ever since I returned home from Austin. I couldn’t stop saying to myself…”These are perfect for festival season!!”
You meet a lot of amazing and inspiring people at SXSW, and Ashley was one of them. I wanted to get to know a little bit more about how she started Seiba, so she filled us in on her story…
Following graduation, I embarked on a trip to backpack through Latin America via Mexico, Panama and Brazil. I hiked, swam, danced, laughed, cried, and explored my way through some incredible communities and natural wonders. Along the way I came across a strikingly beautiful weave. I purchased a few brightly patterned belts and found that they paired perfectly with my bikinis in the day and my jeans at night.
When I first got the belt I started to see just how versatile it was. I would use the belt as a pocket purse (cute fanny pack) for traveling with just the necessities, as well as a purse strap and even converted one to a camera strap.
When I returned to the US, complete strangers began approaching and asking me about the woven belt. What was it, what store did I buy it at, etc. I needed to know more, and so I followed the woven strings back to their origin and discovered an unexpected gem, Chamula.
Chamula is but one of many indigenous communities within the jungle highlands of Chiapas. Untouched by modern ways, their way of life is a traditional and yet complicated mix of ancient Mayan beliefs and Spanish/Mexican culture and language. Historical conflicts with “modern society” have created reclusive community, wary of outsiders.
As I explored the community I learned that despite the beauty and quality of their artwork, they lacked resources for selling it. Many artisans are forced to leave their communities to sell their crafts in the surrounding towns and cities. Others are forced to fend for themselves in the greater world in hopes of finding a way to bring money back to their families. I was saddened to see how poverty and modernization can erode their sacred traditions and break apart families.
I believed their weave was so detailed and beautiful that it would be loved by many if it could only be seen. However, I also wanted to protect the sanctity of their villages and allow them to remain with their families. If I could build the branches to the greater world, the artisans could continue to live their natural way of life. We would be a team, a life force connecting our worlds together through fashion. We would be Seiba.
Thank you for letting us in, Ashley!
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Oh my god this is SO cool! Gorgeous photos.
Such a inspiring story!!! I love how this wonderfully cooperative effort is a win win situation for both Ashley and the people of Chamula !!! Thank you for sharing !!!https://www.etsy.com/shop/TheWeaverOfWords
She is so beautiful and stylish and those bracelets are incredible!
Krystal | http://www.moorekrystal.wordpress.com
this is beautiful! I love everything about this. This is why I love you guys!
I was born in Tabasco, México, Chamula is two hours away from my city, so Im familiar with all these weaves and I can tell you something: even though I grew surrounded by all these natural wonders, lush vegetation and indigenous cultures, they never cease to amaze me. Love this feature and I love seeing how tourists appreciate our ancient culture. Keep them coming
Viva Seiba! This is so cool!
this is such a wonderful story… :D
So those are called woven bracelets! I bought many for my friends in san cristobal, mexico. So pretty ♥ ashley has such a light inside her that comes to the outside, what a beautiful soul. Always makes me happy to see native south america people, so joyful!
You should first do research on the companies you endorse. It all sounds perfect and peachy, but how much are the natives actually profiting from this? If we aren’t careful we’re just supporting capitalism and the exploitation of people.
Hello im mexican and im really glad to see this post, as a mexican i know how wonderful some parts of mexican culture can be and im happy that others can appreciate this, but im also really glad because you can also tell the bad stuff like poverty and social differences which are horrible
Love these knotted bracelets, especially the wide ones! Seeing craft traditions from around the world can be so inspiring.
I fell apart as I read this!!! Those weavings and knots!!! Aaaaaaaaaaaaarrrrrrrrrrggggggghhh!!! I love to make friendship bracelets and macrame!!! So super inspiring!!!! :D :D :D :D
I worked with Ashley and she stole a bunch of my ideas and then stopped answering emails and phone calls. She doesn’t help any indigenous communities and is sadly a stereotype of growing up in the valley.