“It’s good that they sold well. The work was a blessing and we were able to earn good money that we hadn’t seen in a long time.”
Those were the words of María Deysi Balam Cauich, one of four embroiderers from the community of Santo Domingo, Yucatán, who completed typical Mayan designs that were featured on 2,000 bags sold by French designer Christian Louboutin for 28,000 pesos (US $1,562) each.
The collection was launched under the name Mexicaba on May 3 and has already sold out.
But despite the hefty price tag, the artisans were only paid between 220 and 240 pesos (US $12-13) for each of the embroideries they completed.
María and artisans from other municipalities in the south of the state worked for three months to deliver 2,000 embroideries of either mestiza women in typical regional dresses or colorful flowers to the prestigious French designer.
Around 20 precious stones also appeared on the bags, each of them a unique, one-of-a-kind design.
One of the looms the artisans used was the telar de cintura or backstrap loom, a traditional Mayan weaving device. They also used a technique involving the use of a cow horn.
Louboutin visited the municipality of Maxcanú, about 60 kilometers south of Mérida, in December and provided thread, looms and other materials to the women who collaborate with the non-profit organization Fundación Haciendas del Mundo Maya and its design brand Taller Maya.
The foundation acted as an intermediary between the local artisans and Louboutin and stated that 10% of the profits of each item sold in Christian Louboutin’s boutiques would go directly to social enterprise programs that benefit the artisan women.
“We saw that he was relaxed and very happy with our work because he saw how we embroider and that we are dedicated to this [work],” some of the artisans remarked about Louboutin.
None of the women was aware of the price that the bags were sold for but when they found out they expressed surprise rather than anger.
Alba Leticia Cituk Tzec, another artisan who worked on the order, told the newspaper El Universal, “he paid 235 pesos for each embroidery and we made good money, thanks to God we had work and could contribute to the expenses of our homes.”
“We are very poor,” she added. “This collaboration motivated us because we appeared on the internet.”
Other artisans also expressed that they were happy with the payment because they were able to use some of the money to build a new, larger workspace.
Taller Maya sells bags featuring designs by the same artisans but for much more accessible prices, ranging from 500 to 1,000 pesos.
Louboutin previously collaborated with artisans from Senegal and Mali to produce a collection under the name Africaba.
The Mayan artisans are prepared to work for the French designer again on a second order or a different proposal but now that they know just how expensive and in demand their designs are, they may well seek a larger slice of the pie.
Source: El Universal (sp)