Zurita is a Chilean brand of apparel, created by Santiago based designer Gabriela Farias Zurita, under the parameters of eco and ethical fashion. We talked with Gabriela, an emerging talent in Latin America, to find out more about her work in the Andes mountains and her approach to sustainable fashion design.
What is ethical fashion for you and why did you decide to direct your work in this line?
I worked in designer creations by more than a decade and arrived to the so called eco fashion pretty intuitively. Environmental and social issues are something that concerns all of us, as consumers, creators, educators. When I create a new product line I always wonder what is the reason behind doing something new when there is already so much in the market and generally becomes a disposable item in less than a year. Here in Chile the alpaca and Andean textile traditions are right there, at hand, and I got captivated by both the technical expertise of the traditional textiles and the worldview of the Aymara world.
Tell us a little about the project you are developing in the Northern desert.
Today I am working on two lines with the Andean weavers. On the one hand I work in a developing products for my brand, under the parameters of fair trade and eco fashion. I design pieces of clothing using traditional Andean weaving techniques and respecting the cultural content kept in these textiles. The pieces are mostly made in the Altiplano and then come to my hands to the capital, where I label, commercialize, etc. On the other line of work I work exclusively at the service of the weavers, through state funded programs, often in collaboration with fair trade certified organizations (in this case Comparte). I have just been working on product development under the concepts of co-design, where traditional techniques are preserved in innovative products that will be later marketed and eventually generate income for the weavers.
Why is it so important to try to preserve the weaving tradition? Do you think it is possible to combine it with hard-nosed business?
The importance of promoting handicrafts is related to a heritage theme. I do not think that you can go back in time but I do think that maintaining a living heritage enriches society as a whole, even more if income can be generated in the process. The hard business approach doesn’t necessarily understand the spirit of a craft job, which requires more time than produced machine production. However, I do think that there are sustainable programs that can help create a balance and help solve some of the problems with craftsmanship. These programs should be tailored to the people, focus on the people, rather than the money or financial aspect of a business venture.
Can you reflect a little on ethical fashion as a retail trend and its future?
Ethical Fashion is a concept that has existed in the western world for some time already. Here in Latin America is still not well understood. It may become a trend, but I think if it's a trend that doesn’t replace the consumption patterns that we have had for the last decades it won’t make much sense. It is necessary to create a deeper change, a radical social order change is necessary. And I’d rather devote myself to encourage and promote this broader change than to think just about retail.