Fashion Revolution Week, which kicks off on April 22-28, operates under the belief that a group of individuals can change the world by asking more of the clothing brands they buy. We’re proud to join their movement.
The revolution starts small, with a clothing tag and a demand for answers. For one week, we are all invited to take a photograph of an article of clothing—tag out—and ask the company who made it about the details of their supply chain.
Who made my clothes?
It seems like a fair question. So we thought we’d provide some answers by spotlighting a group of artisans who are waging their own revolution by challenging gender norms and uplifting their communities.
The association of artisans is called K’amolon K’i K’ojonel, and it translates into the uplifting catchphrase, “let’s get together.”
K’amolon K’i K’ojonel was founded in 1987 by women and for women in Guatemala. After the brutal years of the civil war, women in Sololá were left widowed, impoverished, and without a means to support their families.
Assessing the dim prospects for women across the region, a small group of female activists got together in the Triunfo community in Pujujil and decided to manifest their own destinies. With backstrap looms fastened to their bodies, they would weave their way to financial stability, whether or not the world was ready for them.
They exerted a kind of gravitational pull on the communities around them, at first, drawing other widows into their orbit, and then married women who wanted to contribute to their families and assert their financial independence.
With financial support from individuals, like Ronald Spector, and organizations like PADEL (Canadian Embassy) and IDEX (San Francisco), K’amolon K’i K’ojonel has grown into a powerful resource for women in the region. Today, they offer training courses in sewing, reading, writing, and community organizing. They have a seven-woman board of directors and hold elections every two years. With over 200 active members, they have had a profound impact, not only the lives of these women but also on their families and entire communities.
So when we ask, “who made my clothes?” the answers are about real people. Catarina Julajuj Tzorin says that before joining K’amolon K’i K’ojonel, she was unable to afford even the maize she needed for food. Now she is able to provide enough for herself and her children to eat. Juana Tun Cuc, one of the earliest members of the association, says that today, she is able to live with dignity in her old age. Zoila Tuy Topoz, one of the youngest members, weaves with dexterity, finishing her work quickly so that she can help her mother, Juana Topoz.
The stories of these women remind us that no object of art—whether it is a sculpture, painting, piece of jewelry, or article of clothing—can be separated from the artisan who crafted it.
Rayon Wrap Scarf, “Smooth Breeze in Blue”
Hand Woven Rayon Chenille Scarf, “Solola Rainbow”
Green and Turquoise Hand Woven Rayon Chenille Shawl, “Peaceful”
Bamboo Chenille Bag, “Magical Moon”
Olive Green Rayon Scarf, “Mystic Maya Olive Grove”
Bamboo Chenille Shoulder Bag, “Jade Magic”
It is their own life stories that artisans mold into their clay, weave into their fabrics, and shape into their works.
So when the world demands answers, asking of its brands greater transparency, the women of K’amolon K’i K’ojonel stand up tall, as they have for the last 30 years, and respond to the question that so many are now asking.
They hold their heads high and say: “I made your clothes.”