A few weeks ago we had sponsor Alejandra from Nena & Co. over so she could show us her line of repurposed leather bags and share her love story for Guatemala. These experiences are such a blessing for us because we learn so much, it opens our world view, and we create new relationships we might never of have the chance to. We interviewed Ale and here’s what she had to say about how she has bridged her roots and heritage with her modern-day fashion-forward business.
1. Tell us about Guatemala!
“For me, Guatemala is completely magical. If you know someone from there they will tell you that the fruit is the sweetest, the people are the nicest and color are the brightest you’ve ever seen and frankly, they are right. I’m for sure one of those people. (Ed. Note: Nicole spent a Summer in Guatemala and nodded along at how amazing it is!) When I’m there I’m ready to eat, laugh with my family and soak in as much as I can. Usually when I go to Guatemala it is to visit family and lately to do genealogy with my mom. But now I focus a lot of my time on working with artists on product development. It is important to me to know who is putting that final brand on Nena & Co. products, or the women I buy my materials from. My career experience is probably like anyone else but I would say what brought me to this point is working and watching my parents have an idea and turn it into a profitable business. My own mother was born and raised in Guatemala, came to the US as a newly-wed and lives the American dream with the opportunities this country provides for Entrepreneurs. Together with my dad I’ve seen them run successful business from designing and manufacturing pinatas in Mexico, to designing diecuts for scrap booking to exponentially growing their accounting firms. I think that’s were I get my inspiration and creativity. Most of my “real” jobs have kept me stagnate and from doing things I really want to do.”
2. How has using locals in Guatemala for product creation shaped your business?
“When I started Nena & Co. I just thought, I love working with the talented people in Guatemala and I love bringing them to people that otherwise might not ever enjoy the textiles from Guate. After a few month of Nena & Co. up and running I decided I needed to work on more product development plus we had raised enough money to take bring down a couple water filtration systems. When I reached the design studio, the Doña (or the female head of the household) pulled me aside to tell me Nena & Co. has been a blessing in their life and all the people they have had to hire. Their house had been burnt down and lost everything just a few month before I contacted them to work together. She proceded to tell me that they weren’t sure what they were going to do and then…Nena & Co. placed its first order. I looked around the room and realized, all these people work to make Nena & Co. products. All the sudden Nena & Co. wasn’t just a fun idea…it was people. I didn’t realize what a difference starting a small business could make.”
3. You’re using textiles that are made with centuries old looming techniques and patterns, how have you brought those into the 21st Century and made them such a hot item for our most fashionable friends?
“I like to describe my design process like this: raised by a Guatemalan mother and an American father gives me a love for the bright colors and intricate designs of age old traditions and textiles in Guatemala and the American side lends me a love for style, fashion and innovation. I don’t want people to buy my product just because its for a good cause. I want them to love what they see and be even happier that they are helping someone less fortunate in a different part of the world. For me to go first hand and know every process of the design and production of my product gives me more drive and passion for these women and what we all do to make ends meet. It makes it more real.”
4. Tell us more about the actual bags, what are some cool features to look for?
“Yes! Aside from my earlier designs, Nena & Co, products will either have red or purple lining, the Nena & Co. logo and the bags will specificaly have a tassel on the back zipper and three pockets with a unique front pocket where we take the neckline of the Huipil (or the maya women shirt) and transform it into a front pocket on most of the bags. I like to do this cause its a great feature for mothers for their bottles or sippy cups but also its a way of preserving the Huipils original form. I’m also really excited to have just release Nena & Co.’s exlcusie accessory line which includes camera straps, Turbans and cosmetic bags all of which are priced under $100. The crossbody tote is also a Nena & Co. exclusive design. Meaning you would not be able to go to the market in Central America and find them there.”
We are such huge fans of Alejandra and the love she puts into each piece was more than evident as we spoke. Tears were shed, hugs were exchanged and we were immediately recruited to Team Nena & Co.! She is giving away a day bag valued at $200 to one lucky winner! We weren’t kidding when we said our most fashionable friends are rocking Nena and Co! Check out these babe moms, Sydney, Cara and Dani!
Entries are open until Sunday December 8th at 11:59 MST, good luck!