Ana Maria Plata - Leonor

Winner of the The FASHION 4 DEVELOPMENT Most Socially Responsible Handbag


2015 Finalist Ana Maria Plata Leonor


What country are your bags manufactured?

Please explain how your bags are socially responsible?
The main material for my bags, are "Mola" fabrics, which are beautiful pieces of vivid multicolor fabric that are layered and hand-sewn in a sort of patchwork with graphic patterns drawn from nature and everyday life. Our "Molas" are handcrafted by the women from the Kuna indigenous community, that have lived for many many years on the border between Colombia and Panama, and we pay a fair price for each of the "molas" they hand made, by approaching them directly and buying the "Molas" directly from them we make sure the money goes to them and not to a third party that keeps most of the proceeds. With these woman we work with we buy their "molas" as they are, without us interfering with their original graphic designs, we respect their traditions, we don't want to influence their work or graphic vision in a way to keep and preserve the traditios, and our handbags are designed to showcase the molas and the design of each handbag revolves around the mola. We also pay more than the price they ask for each "Mola" because we value the amount of work, time, and detail that goes into each of these beautiful artful pieces they make. The leather and the rest of the bag production is made by a family of local artisans that handcraft each piece. All the people involved in the process are paid more than fair prices and we work with the artisans in a co-creative, friendly, and healthy environment.

Do you work with local/native artisans to design your bags?
Yes, we work directly with the native woman from the Kuna tribe, to buy from them directly the Mola fabric pieces to design and construct our handbags and shoes around the molas. We buy form them what they create but without interfering with their designs, the only part of the mola design that we are involved in, is that for each collection we buy from them the molas they have as they are, but we also suggest color combinations in advance, for a few unique pieces they make specially for us, with whatever graphic pattern they want to do. We work very close and directly with a family of 3, mother, father and their son who is in his 30's. To construct the patterns, and produce by hand each of our handbags. Ramiro, who is their son, and I go together to source and look for materials, and we work on creative sessions through out the whole process.

Working Conditions. (Are the manufacturers/artisans that are being employed being treated humanely, of age, and working in safe and acceptable conditions? Please explain)
The women from the Kuna tribe we work with, are mothers who stay at home and take care of their children while their husbands fish, they live from what their husbands make from selling their catch, and from what these woman make selling their Molas. The way they work is they get together with many other women, mainly moms, in one of the women's houses and sit together talking and laughing while they cut, and stitch their molas, it's a very relaxed environment and its the way they have done it for many years. The artisans we work with in Bogota, are a family of 3, and they have a small work shop in their own house, where they work handcrafting leather pieces (handbags) for a few independent designers who hire them to work on our collections. They work freely and manage their time on their own. Ramiro (the son) and I, work together closely, depending on what stage of the design we're in, going to source and buying materials, or sometimes we get together at my house to review mockups or go over details of the collection. For us is very important that both the woman from the Kuna tribe and the artisans we work with live well, are paid more than fairly and are happy to work with us.

Why did you choose this country to have your bags made and what made you decided to give back?
The country were my bags are made and the molas that we work with are from Colombia, and made in Colombia, the country were I'm from and love. Having lived in the US for 8 and a half years I have always wanted to break our country's stereotypes, and what better way than to work with beautiful handcrafts made in my country by fellow colombians, and design and work beautiful pieces that catch people's eyes and attention, as a way to tell a story with your accessories. I decided to do these bags as a way to show in a cool, chic and modern way these molas that to me are art pieces, and to give value to them and to honor the woman who make them and the tradition of many years of this handcraft. To give value to this pieces in our own country, and to take this outside of Colombia to show them to the world and tell the story. I found in the US, every time I was wearing one of my bags and shoes, people always stop and ask what they are about, so you can then tell the story and by doing so, give value, honor our traditions, and show a different side of Colombia, a good side of Colombia to everybody around the world. To us is important to give back to our country and our people, by having our bags made here locally in Bogota, not only do we have more quality control over the production, but we get to work with a local family supporting each other, they help us, we help them.

See other finalists from the 2015 handbag awards