Soul Woven: From Guatemala to Canada, a True Family Business
“The path that lead me towards founding Soul Woven was a winding road,” states Claire Levick, the founder of fair trade fashion company Soul Woven. It was her mix of interests, frustrations and desires that led her to take a risk, commit to her values and start a fashion business that stood for ethical and fair practices. Soul Woven is a fair trade fashion collection curating traditional Mayan creativity into innovative, modern design by working directly with a number of different artisan groups in Guatemala.
Who are the people behind Soul Woven?
“My mom and I are very grateful for the relationship we have with our artisans. We take pride in the friendships we have cultivated over the small amount of time that Soul Woven has existed. A great part of Guatemala’s culture is devoted to family and it is common for the parameters of ‘family’ to stretch beyond. I learnt that from a direct experience a few years ago.
When my mother came to Guatemala for the first time, I introduced her to Esperanza, Marten and their family – the soul of our boot production. We were invited to come to their workshop to observe their cobbling process. What we believed to be a short business trip, turned into a day I will never forget for the rest of my life.
We arrived at their home, also their workshop, on Sunday afternoon around 4pm. Told to sit down, we were somewhat confused as the house was very quiet. Suddenly, traditional Guatemalan music began to play. The adults all gazed towards the door to the kitchen as four young girls appeared in beautiful Mayan dresses and began to dance.
Sitting in complete and utter shock, both my mom and I sat there feeling our hearts about to explode. Half way through the dance, I stumbled to find my camera to capture a part of this magical moment. When the dance ended, we met the girls individually and learnt that they were all nieces of Esperanza and Marten. Next, they proceeded to teach my mother and I the process of how girls in Guatemala learn to make Huipils and the graduating steps it takes to get there. That day, I grew a profound appreciation and understanding for the talent and lifetime dedication that goes into the creation of a Guatemalan huipil. We then went through the process of boot making with the cobblers. From cutting the pattern pieces and leather skins, to constructing the sole and adding the finishing touches, we learnt in great admiration the steps to completing a handmade pair of boots. The afternoon carried on for a number of hours as the house grew more full of family members, all with a role in the business.
Thinking our day was coming to an end and that we would return to our room, exhausted and ready for bed, we were told dinner was going to be served. We insisted, as Canadians do, that they did not need to feed us. And as Guatemalans do, they didn’t listen and sat us down in our seats and didn’t let us get up until the meal was over and table cleared. The meal that followed was one of the best meals I have ever had. Handmade tamales started us off as they were passed around the table. The main course was a traditional Guatemalan stew called, Pepian. A beautiful array of coriander, cloves and cinnamon, give flavour to a tomato and chili based chicken broth. We were told after the meal that they had butchered one of their chickens for the meal. I am still at a loss for words when I talk to Esperanza about that night and the symbolism of their gift that day. The evening ended with many hugs and an agreement that our relationship was not only business, not only friendship, but family. I am forever grateful to be able to have begun a business based on these values and I hope to continue to grow Soul Woven in the same way forever.”
You can also watch out our interview with Claire below: