In order to provide transparency at Yabal about how we do business and how your accessories are made, we wanted to share with you more about our sewing workshop and introduce you to our lead seamstress, Elda. At Yabal, we believe that the artisans responsible for making your products should receive the greatest benefit from its sale, Fair Trade is a different way to do “business”.
Who is Elda Marisa?
Elda lives in Xela, the second largest city Guatemala. Elda started working as a seamstress in her home with her mother’s sewing machine in order to survive after she divorced. Elda has worked for 27 years as a seamstress mostly in large factories and now for the last 8 years as an independent tailor. Elda is in charge of the sewing and assembling of Yabal’s accessories such as : toiletry bags, purses, bags, backpacks, wallets, computer sleeves, and more. She is a single mom to two sons.
How do Elda and Yabal collaborate on new products?
First step : New products are always a collaboration between our Director and Elda. Usually we start with a drawing, photo, or an idea and then leave it to Elda to use her expertise to figure out possibilities for construction. Often she offers suggestions for improvement or alternative construction options. And from there we work together to create the best design possible for a new product.
Second step : Yabal then goes to our weaving cooperative of 35 women in Santa Catarina Ixtahuacan to decide on fabric colors and designs for the new product collection. Usually this includes adapting an existing design to new colors and slight revisions. For embroidery designs, Yabal decides on the colors but each woman creates the embroidery design based on her own inspiration and creativity. All of Yabal’s fabrics are 100% handwoven on the back-strap loom, a 5,000 year old Mayan weaving art tradition.
Third step : After the new product design in the new fabrics are set, we start producing! Yesica, Yabal’s Production Coordinator, is in charge of coordinating orders with all of our artisans each week, working with them on improving quality, explaining new designs, and assuring that everyone is on the same page.
The Sewing Team: Elda is in charge of her sewing workshop where she employs other family members to help with sewing and production.
Yabal donates a sewing workshop to Elda and the other tailors where we provide all the materials and machines, pay for the maintenance of the machines and tools, and cover the costs of the electricity and utilities. She and the other tailors mostly work on products for Yabal but also use the workshop for outside orders for other clients depending on the time of year. They are paid per product which means that some times of the year are very busy and other times are slow, depending on the number of wholesale orders Yabal receives. To help off-set some of the uncertainty, Yabal pays Elda and the other tailors twice annual bonuses to help them with slow times. In addition, Yabal pays for on-going certification and sewing classes for Elda and her team.
“I like work when there is more than I can do. When that happens, my son Roberto (27) who enjoys sewing… comes in order to help me. And also I call other independant sewers that I used to work with.”-Elda
A fair wage : Elda determines the price that Yabal will pay her per product. This price is based on how many hours it takes her to make new product designs. The price is set based on an hourly fair wage, which is double the national standard that she receives from other clients.
The difference between us and a traditional business is that we pair fair wages, invest in long term trading relationships, maintain transparency with our artisans and customers, invest in the professional and personal development of the artisans that we work with, and use all profits and donations for social programs for the artisan communities (such as educational scholarships, micro-credits, skills trainings, and more). We do all this in order to improve the lives of the women we support. We exist because of them. This is what it means to not only be an ethical brand, but even more, a Fair Trade brand.
“Working with Yabal allows me to live day by day and support my family and I also love what I do and love learning how to make new things.- Elda”