For the class of 2017 graduating seniors…
Have you ever stopped and marveled at the artistic masterpiece that is your clothing? Ever wonder how each miniscule thread in your fabric was once a piece of raw cotton on a plant- how that cotton had to then be processed and spun into tiny threads, dyed, dried, wound into balls of thread? And then…how many hours it would take to make your clothes, weave your fabrics, embroider the designs on your shirts, without access to technology? Hours. Days. Months. How do you turn those tiny threads into a shirt, into pants, into a bag, into a scarf, or even into a graduation stole perhaps?
Yabal, a cooperative of women weavers in Guatemala, offers University student groups graduation stoles. Each one is handwoven and hand-embroidered with your organization’s acronym, year, and in the colors of your choice.
Graduation is a significant and symbolic moment in one’s life that marks the end of one chapter and the beginning of a new. What better way to mark this rite of passage than by wearing a stole that actually means something—not just to you but for the woman who wove it?
From its very beginning, even before the rise of the modern “fashion industry”, clothing by its very nature, has always been a labor of love, an art, that all cultures practiced and mastered to dress themselves.
While in the US and Europe we have lost much of that connection with our clothing, in Guatemala, the art of clothing is still practiced by most indigenous women today. In Guatemala, the traditional blouse that Mayan women wear, called a “huipil”, is literally a work of art that includes hours and days, and sometimes months of hand-weaving complex symbolic designs into each part of the fabric. This is done using the Mayan back-strap loom, a 5,000-year-old textile art. Women literally wear their art on their backs every day. Most women will only own a few huipiles in their lifetimes, re-using the same one day after day. Original huipiles can cost anywhere between $100-500 depending on the complexity. This is expensive but if you use it every day for 15+ years, it’s actually a very good deal.
This is the kind of mentality that is important to bring back to our modern world- to perhaps spend more to buy better quality, fairly made products and as a result, buy less and treasure more what we already own.
As graduation day approaches, we hope your generation of graduates considers how you can take part in this global
shift to make empowering decisions in your consumer choices for producers around the world, both on graduation day and in your choices every day after.
For the upcoming graduates- we hope you make your life into a beautifully woven work of art that is treasured and meaningful, that creates rather than destroys, and that in the process, uplifts your neighbors around the globe!