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August 06, 2019 4 min read

Respecting the integrity of craft is of utmost importance for Latelier. For Andrea Jaramillo, founder of the brand, artisans need to have full creative control to express themselves and their culture through their art.  After spending 10 years traveling and living abroad, Andrea combined her love of design and the necessity to create a more sustainable fashion industry.

Today, Latelier is based in Los Angeles, working with artisans in both Colombia and Mexico. We asked Andrea about the idea behind Latelier, her trips, and her work with communities in Colombia and Mexico.

 

How did the idea and name for Latelier come about?

LATELIER was born out of my love for telling stories about the places and people I have met while traveling and recognizing a need for a more sustainable and ethical fashion industry. While studying Trend Research, I began my research on the fast fashion business and was heart broken to find out how devastating it actually is (and that I had been unknowingly contributing to it for so long!!) 

 

LATELIER means “latin american studio”. The name comes from the French word “L’atelier” which means “the studio”. “LAT” stems from Latin America (where our products are made).

How many times have you traveled to Latin America? What are your favorite countries/cities to visit there?

I grew up traveling between Los Angeles and Colombia, where my father is from. In 2015 I decided to move to Bogota, Colombia where I lived for four years. Colombia has a very special place in my heart: it’s rich in life and the culture is so vibrant. There really is no place like it. I also LOVE Mexico. Their craftsmanship is unmatched, the colors, the sounds, the food; everything is beautiful there!

What has been your most satisfying moment with Latelier?

My most satisfying moment was working with the Kuna women (an indigenous tribe from Colombia), sharing my ideas on how to share their story and seeing how happy and excited they were to have a platform that also respected the integrity of their ancient art.

Could you tell us more about the artisans who create Latelier products?

My first collection was made in collaboration with Kuna tribe, an indigenous group from Colombia who use elaborately colored and hand stitched textiles, calledMolas to share their oral history, as well as leather artisans to make one of a kind leather jackets. 

My second collection is made in Mexico, with a co-op of women who hand weave our bags using recycled plastic and traditional Oaxacan weaving techniques.

 

How would you describe your work with the communities that manufacturer your Products in Colombia and Mexico?

The work I do with these communities is always to honor and preserve their craft, history, and culture. A large part of the collaboration is anthropology: understanding how and why their craft is rooted in their culture and its significance. For me, it is very important to spend time with the artisans and learn why and how they started.

Why is telling the story of cultural preservation and traditional craftsmanship so important?

Respecting the integrity of their craft is of utmost importance for LATELIER. I always want to give the artisans full creative control to express themselves and their culture through their art.

What piece of advice would you give to people who want to become entrepreneurs in the sustainable fashion industry?

Anticipate loss and accept imperfections (especially if your stuff is handmade-- it makes them more beautiful!)  You might spend a significant amount of time and money on something that doesn’t work and you’ll have to change direction.That’s totally okay. It’s part of the process and it’s all a learning experience. Sustainable fashion is still an industry under development and everyone is learning as they go along.

How do you describe the Latelier style? And what is the best occasion to wear it?

LATELIER style is rich in color and culture. They are statement pieces that strike up conversations and each piece tells a unique story. My hope is that each piece has an origin that the wearer continues to add to with their own story. 

The best occasion to wear LATELIER is when you want to connect with cultural pieces and share its history!

What is your favorite Latelier product?

I love everything we make but the first jacket I ever designed and had made is my favorite. It came out perfectly the first time around, made of the most beautiful golden suede. It doesn’t have any molas on it, but it was made with so much skill and love by a leather artisan in Bogota.

What is your favorite book? Or What book about running a sustainable business has inspired you the most?

My favorite book is The Shadows of the Wind, by Carlos Ruiz Zafon, a Catalan writer. The book is a gothic novel about life in Barcelona during the 50s. It’s very romantic and mysterious. I was actually reading it while I was developing the initial ideas for LATELIER. I wouldn’t say it inspired the brand, but I remember I was definitely thinking about the characters a lot while I worked!

 

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