Fair Trade Your Graduation and Support Artisans in Guatemala

FT Campaigns Intern March 15, 2017

Graduation is the first day of the rest of your life – what will you wear?

The following is a guest post, written by Allison Havens, Executive Director of Y’abal Handicrafts.


Y'abalHave you ever stopped and marveled at the artistic masterpiece that is your clothing? Ever wonder how each minuscule thread in your fabric was once a piece of raw cotton on a plant — how that cotton had to then be processed and spun into tiny threads, dyed, dried, wound into balls of thread? And then, how many hours it would take to make your clothes, weave your fabrics, embroider the designs on your shirts, without access to technology? Hours. Days. Months. How do you turn those tiny threads into a shirt, into pants, into a bag, into a scarf, or even into a graduation stole perhaps?

Y’abal, a cooperative of women weavers in Guatemala, offers Fair Trade graduation stoles for high school and college graduates. Each one is handwoven and hand-embroidered with Mayan embroidery decorations in blue, green, and white, with the words “Fair Trade” and “Class of 2017.”

Graduation is a significant and symbolic moment in one’s life that marks the end of one chapter and the beginning of a new. What better way to mark this rite of passage than by wearing a stole that actually means something — not just for you but for the woman who wove it?

From its very beginning, even before the rise of the modern fashion industry, clothing by its very nature has always been a labor of love, an art, that all cultures practiced and mastered to dress themselves.

Y'abalWhile in the U.S. and Europe we have lost much of that connection with our clothing, in Guatemala, the art of clothing is still practiced by most indigenous women today. The traditional blouse that Mayan women wear, called a huipil, is literally a work of art that requires hours and days, and sometimes months, of hand-weaving complex symbolic designs into each part of the fabric. This is done using the Mayan back-strap loom, a 5,000-year-old textile art. Women literally wear their art on their backs every day. Most women will only own a few huipiles in their lifetimes, re-using the same one day after day. Original huipiles can cost anywhere between $100-500 depending on the complexity. This is expensive but if you use it every day for 15+ years, it’s actually a very good deal.

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This is the kind of mentality that is important to bring back to our modern world — to perhaps spend more to buy better quality, fairly made products and as a result, buy less and treasure more what we already own.

As graduation day approaches, we hope your generation of graduates considers how you can take part in this global shift to make empowering decisions in your consumer choices for producers around the world, both on graduation day and in your choices every day after.

For the upcoming graduates — we hope you make your life into a beautifully woven work of art that is treasured and meaningful, that creates rather than destroys, and that in the process, uplifts your neighbors around the globe!

Find out how to purchase a Fair Trade graduation stole here.

*use the code ‘FTU’ at checkout and Y’abal will donate 10% of the proceeds from your order to Fair Trade Campaigns!

P.S. Keep an eye out for Y’abal artisan items to raffle in our Spring Fair Trade Finals kits! Sign-up deadline for colleges & schools is April 3rd – don’t wait! 

Y’abal is a Fair Trade organization in Guatemala that supports over 50 rural indigenous women artisans through their line of handwoven textiles. Their social enterprise is a sustainable way for these women to provide food and education for their children while at the same time preserving this incredible traditional weaving art. These women artisans face many challenges: lack of education, rural isolation, lack of farmland, scarcity of jobs, and the burden of feeding and providing for their children. However, Y’abal is providing them hope through their Fair Trade textile project.  All profits and donations are used to fund social programs in the weavers’ communities.

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FT Campaigns Intern,