Traces, is the home-brand of the TRACES OF THE WORLD online shop, of sustainable clothing handcrafted by artisans around the world. Traces who collaborates in Chiapas, Mexico with 18 different indigenous communities and each of these communities with its precise recognisable weave techniques. In all these communities we have innovated and co-created with the artisan weavers an item for the Traces collection. Our collaborative partners the master artisans of the indigenous artisan communities with who we collaborate under sustainable and ethical standards.
Chiapas is one of the states of Mexico that Its main producers of handcrafts. Culturally, the most important reason is the various indigenous ethnicities that are found in the state, which has one of the highest indigenous populations in Mexico. In general, the handcraft producers are indigenous, mostly living in the Los Altos (Highlands) region. This area lacks industry, so handcrafts play an important role in the economy, alongside agriculture and work in service occupations. In addition, many indigenous see handcraft production as a way to preserve traditions.
From childhood, most indigenous girls learn to weave and embroider cloth. This can also include even the preparation of the fiber (carding, dying, etc.). Most of the textiles produced are for local use, starting with simpler designs for everyday wear, then moving onto more complicated and decorated garb as they get older and more experienced.
Many textile products are still made completely with traditional methods, from materials such as wool, cotton thread and natural dyes. This include most handwoven cloth, which is made on backstrap looms. These products are made by women artisans in their own homes in conjunction with other domestic duties, but sometimes these women work in collaboration with others. Much of the embroidery designs are traditional as well, containing old symbolic images from a syncretism of Mayan and Christian worldviews. This is particularly true of the needlework of the Tzotzils of Larráinzar, Chenalhó, Chamula, Zinacantan, Pantelhó and Tenejapa, where designs can indicate where the wearer comes from. The quality of these pieces varies, with the best of these winning national awards and prized by international collectors.
Textile designs in Chiapas are very similar to those of Guatemala, as they come from the same origin. Most of the designs are in strong colors such as red, yellow, turquoise blue, white, purple, pink and deep green but some pastels are also combined with these. Motifs include flowers, butterflies and rainforest birds. The growth of handcraft production has meant diversification in designs and products, especially in textiles, both in weaving and embroidery. Synthetic fibers are making their way in to pieces, either used to make the cloth or added as embroidery. Embroidery designs can come from more common inspiration. For example, many of the textiles of Aguacatenango have four-petaled flowers mimicking those on the facade of the San Agustin Church, which dates from the 17th century.
Both traditional and non-traditional clothing is made in the state. The basic traditional garment for women is the huipil, and each indigenous community has its own style, particularly in Tenejapan, Zinacantan, Ocosingo, Larrainzar and Carranza. Another traditional dress is called the Chiapaneca, which shows clear Spanish influence. It is usually made of light, transparent cloth in dark colors (usually tulle) and heavily embroidered with large bright colored flowers. In addition, mestizo women sew traditional and non-traditional clothing items for the tourist market, contracting indigenous women to do the embroidery. These garments and other items with traditional embroidery can be found in markets such as those in San Cristóbal de las Casas (Plaza Santo Domingo), San Juan Chamula and Zinacantán.
Communities particularly noted for their embroidered textiles include Magdalenas, Larráinzar, Venustiano Carranza and Sibaca. Zinacatán is known for its production of handcrafts, with the making of brightly embroidered garments a main economic activity. The traditional garb for men includes a serape woven in dark colors such as blue, green or purple with floral accents. For women, it includes blouses and skirts in the same tones as well as rebozos (or chals) embroidered with flowers. Textiles of wool and cotton woven on backstrap looms are made in San Juan Chamula, San Andres Larrainzar, Tuxtla Gutierrez, San Pedro Chenalho, Bochil and Teopisca. Traditional outfits for men and women are sewn in Pantelho, Oxchuc and Huixtan.
In the textiles of Chiapas, Mexico, Maya women tell a story in their weavings and textile embroidery about their understanding of time, space and the mythological forces of nature and the cosmos. The weavings of these Highland Maya women tell their individual stories and so assert their independence in creating an art form with designs and symbols derived historically from their ancient ancestors to which they have added their own modern interpretation of earlier designs.
In the state of Chiapas, located in southwestern Mexico, 200,000 Maya women or more weave their own intricate designs often using backstrap looms like their ancestors or more modern shuttle looms and sewing machines or needle and thread. They adapt these ancient designs into intricate forms of clothing for men and women in the Highlands of rural Chiapas north and surrounding the colonial city named San Cristobal de Las Casas. The textiles often include brocade technique and are interwoven with many designs considered sacred. It is their sacred duty to execute and perfect these designs and to often add their own personal interpretation of these ancient designs woven with respect for the Virgin Mary and Catholic Saints, as well as designs associated with their surroundings in rural Mexico.
Handwoven textiles are made all over Mexico and can be found all over Mexico. Almost every region and every indigenous people have specific materials, motifs, symbols, colors and natural products to make dyes that make their woven rebozos (shawls), tablecloths, runners, scarves, blouses, dresses, pillow covers and you-name-it, recognizable to that region.
But Chiapas, in particularly, this amazing and remote state has some of the most talented weavers and embroiderers.