Producer Spotlight: Manos Zapotecas

Posted on June 30, 2014 by Ikuska Sanz | 0 Comments

Ever been to Teotitlán del Valle? It's a small Zapotec town in the Oaxaca state of Mexico that's famous for its weaving. Traditionally woven by hand using natural dyes, the gorgeous wool rugs, blankets, and other textiles from Teotitlán represent a legacy of craftsmanship which traces its roots back to pre-Columbian times.
Luckily, you don't have to book a trip to Mexico to pay homage to the incredible artistry of Teotitlán's weavers (although you might want to anyway). Manos Zapotecas, a fair trade group that connects Zapotec artisans with international markets, works to share the traditions of this community while providing sustainable income through commerce. We couldn't be more enraptured with MZ's brightly-colored textiles, handmade by Paco (a fourth generation weaver!) and his wife Josefina. For this Producer Spotlight, we spoke with Liz Moffett, General Manager at Manos Zapotecas, about the work that this inspiring company does.
MZ began in part because weavers in Teotitlán were abandoning their craft due to the lack of a sustainable market for woven goods. Has there been any improvement in the last year?
The market for MZ products has expanded so much in the last year! It's wonderful how many people, both retail and wholesale, are discovering and appreciating the beauty and skill that go into each MZ piece. The slow fashion movement is beginning to gain mainstream traction. And this, happily, means more sales for our artisans and more compassion and consciousness worldwide.


(Artisan Rocio & Liz)

What kind of positive impact has Manos Zapotecas generated in the communities that you work with? Is there something that you're particularly proud of?
In the last two years MZ has expanded from 20 to 80+ families in the Zapotec community. We are so proud that we are in a position to work with more and more artisans. The financial impact is obvious. Our artisans' work with MZ helps put their children through school, buys shoes and other necessities. The work is also fostering a new sense of artisan community that I am very proud of. In an artisan culture that is traditionally very, very competitive, our artisans are now working together and inspiring each other with design and color ideas.


(MZ celebrates its 3rd birthday)


What are your biggest challenges or concerns, both short- and long-term?

Growth is an amazing thing, but it also carries it's own challenges. Finding new families of artisans to participate in MZ, acquiring the necessary resources to create our products and working always to respect a culture that still has planting seasons that have most the family away from the looms and in the fields for extended periods provide quite enough challenge for me. :) The plus to any challenge is that I am always learning and growing as a result of working with these amazing people.


What kind of role does social media play in Manos Zapotecas' strategy?

Social media plays a huge part in the MZ strategy. I've always felt that we are essentially marketing beauty. The beauty of both the Zapotec people and their amazing work. Photos and stories communicate something about our company that is indispensable. Customers have a chance to know the weaver that made their bag, to see photos of their children. To learn about their culture and their lives. We are lucky enough to have Hannah Aronowitz as our social media manager. She relates the visual branding that IS MZ in a way that is captivating and movement focused. Facebook, instagram and our blog not only engage our customers, but people with all interests and backgrounds. In today's world where the pleasure of physically shopping for something, using all five senses to something you love and value, has essentially slipped away. Social media provides customers a chance to maintain that connection, if even in a small way.


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