Breaking News Bar
posted: 9/26/2013 6:00 AM

Guatemalan indigenous designs win new respect

hello
Success - Article sent! close
  • Guatemalan Eduardo Figueroa, a high-couture designer, said modernizing Mayan designs helps non-indigenous people appreciate this "ethnic" fashion.

      Guatemalan Eduardo Figueroa, a high-couture designer, said modernizing Mayan designs helps non-indigenous people appreciate this "ethnic" fashion.
    Associated Press

  • Shoe designer Karim Corzo is using Guatemalan textiles in her designs at her factory in Guatemala City. Corzo saw an economic benefit to the fashion trend. "They allow us to give work to the women who weave them and sell them," Corzo said.

      Shoe designer Karim Corzo is using Guatemalan textiles in her designs at her factory in Guatemala City. Corzo saw an economic benefit to the fashion trend. "They allow us to give work to the women who weave them and sell them," Corzo said.
    Associated Press

  • A pair of wedges show toes designed by Karim Corzo with embroidered Guatemalan fabric sit on a shelf at a factory where the shoes are handmade in Guatemala City.

      A pair of wedges show toes designed by Karim Corzo with embroidered Guatemalan fabric sit on a shelf at a factory where the shoes are handmade in Guatemala City.
    Associated Press

  • A tailor mannequin displays a Guatemalan textile blazer made by high-couture designer Eduardo Figueroa in his studio in Guatemala City. Embroidered Mayan textiles known as huipiles are undergoing a revival in some of the country's finest boutiques as they become a haute couture fixture.

      A tailor mannequin displays a Guatemalan textile blazer made by high-couture designer Eduardo Figueroa in his studio in Guatemala City. Embroidered Mayan textiles known as huipiles are undergoing a revival in some of the country's finest boutiques as they become a haute couture fixture.
    Associated Press

 
By Sonia Perez D., Associated Press

GUATEMALA CITY -- With their brightly colored fabrics filled with animals and landscapes, Guatemala's indigenous had long used textiles to tell stories and share their visions of the universe. In modern times, however, those same fabrics made their wearers targets for discrimination, marking them as part of the country's poor and indigenous.

Now, embroidered Mayan textiles known as huipiles are undergoing a revival in some of the country's finest boutiques as they become a haute couture fixture. Young Guatemalan designers are using them for everything from evening gowns and purses to handmade shoes sold as far away as Dubai.

Order Reprint Print Article
 
Interested in reusing this article?
Custom reprints are a powerful and strategic way to share your article with customers, employees and prospects.
The YGS Group provides digital and printed reprint services for Daily Herald. Complete the form to the right and a reprint consultant will contact you to discuss how you can reuse this article.
Need more information about reprints? Visit our Reprints Section for more details.

Contact information ( * required )

Success - request sent close

For many here, the widening use of huipiles fits a wider embrace of the country's indigenous roots, with musicians, designers and even politicians adopting Mayan languages and themes. That's also happening in other countries with strong indigenous traditions, such as Bolivia and Mexico, where such clothing and culture are overcoming long-held societal stigmas.

For Adela Qel, a 45-year-old Kaqchikel indigenous woman wearing a huipil in the rural region of Sacatepequez, that acceptance in the fashion world reflects her own pride in the bright clothing.

"It doesn't bother me that they use the typical clothing because if they like it, I can't be mad about this," Qel said. "I am proud of my dress."

The fabrics come in dazzling colors, interwoven in bands and geometric patterns, often worn as tunics or dresses. In Guatemala's design houses, that's translated into pumps, ties and purses that stand out from the usual sober colors displayed in high-end stores.

The Maria's Bags label has seen surprising success with its indigenous-based designs, with the label selling its purses in Bloomingdale's department stores around the world.

Eduardo Figueroa, a high-couture designer, said modernizing the Mayan designs helps non-indigenous people appreciate this ethnic fashion. Already, some of the new creations have been seen in the wardrobes of Guatemalan political figures and celebrities. And Guatemalans living in the United States and other countries have particularly embraced the designs, perhaps as a cure for their nostalgia for home.

Figueroa, for one, won international recognition for the bright orange gown with a spray of floral design at the shoulders he designed for Guatemala's contestant at Miss World 2012. The outfit was rated as one of the contest's best by fashion designer and Project Runway judge Nick Verreos.

"I am inspired by color and Guatemalan textiles are rich in color," Figueroa said. "There were people who would tell you that they thought that traditional textiles were just for cushions and tablecloths, but I tell them that they can be used in many ways."

Shoe designer Karim Corzo said the new trend also meant an economic boost for the communities who have long made the fabrics.

"They allow us to give work to the women who weave them and sell them," Corzo said.

Guatemalan rapper Tzutu Baktun Kan saw a larger cultural move toward his country's indigenous roots, harkening back to the first millennium when present-day Guatemala sat in the heart of the Mayan empire.

"What we are trying to do is strengthen the Mayan languages that little by little are not being spoken," said Kan, who performs in the indigenous language of Tzutujil. "We want to open more spaces that break the ties of racism."

Not everyone, however, embraces that heritage.

Eduardo Ortiz, a high-couture clothing designer, said he doesn't use traditional Guatemalan textiles because they aren't his style and because he thinks some Guatemalans won't accept them.

"Some people think they will look too indigenous with this type of clothing," the designer said.

Under Spanish colonial rule, indigenous Guatemalans were forced to use traditional outfits specific to the region they lived in so the authorities could better identify them. Over the years, the embroidery of those outfits became a unique means for self-expression, with the designs incorporating elements such as the Mayan calendar and images of conjurers who people believed could take animal form, said Alvaro Pop, a United Nations expert on indigenous cultures.

"The Mayans took all their world views and their oral traditions and expressed their thoughts and ideas on their outfits," Pop said.

In more recent decades, the weaving on such fabrics became more modern with more colors mixed into the designs.

"When you are outside of the country you think it's beautiful but by modernizing these traditional textiles we are getting Guatemalans (in the country) to wear them," Corzo said.

That doesn't mean the new fashion comes cheap. A pair of high-couture shoes runs from $50 to $150 while a gown can cost between $300 and $800, with the price, according to the designers, a result of the exclusive designs and quality of the handmade products.

Eventually, Pop said, some of that money should go back to the communities, which are among this impoverished country's poorest and most marginalized. One of their greatest remaining possessions, he said, is their millennia-old culture.

"Ethnic fashion is a trend around the world but we have to be very careful to not simply infringe on the copyright of the indigenous creators of the textiles," he said. "Each textile they make is absolutely unique, they don't make it twice and that intellectual property should be paid for too."

Share this page
Comments ()
Guidelines: Keep it civil and on topic; no profanity, vulgarity, slurs or personal attacks. People who harass others or joke about tragedies will be blocked. If a comment violates these standards or our terms of service, click the X in the upper right corner of the comment box. To find our more, read our FAQ.
    help here