One of a series of short films, ‘Fashionscapes: Artisan Guatemaya’ directed by Michele Bevilacqua, aims to educate the fashion industry on the importance of supporting authentic and sustainable practices. The film follows the journey of Eco-Age founder Livia Firth, Carmen and fellow CoutureLab Coalition founders as they traveled to Guatemala with the Pacunam foundation, in recognition of the need to support and learn more about the talents of local artisans.
Guatemalan craftsmanship accounts for over one million designers, who produce handmade fashion and textiles. It has been said that this craftsmanship is the “soul of the country”, providing a bedrock for both the handworker economy and female employment. Their methods of production continue to be deeply rooted in their Mayan cultural history, and the intricate skills and practices of the artisans have been successfully passed down by their ancestors for over three millennia.
Livia Firth has long been an active advocate for exploring sustainable fashion practices, and her informative film seeks to understand the handprint and human stories behind these intricate and culturally rich designs. It also encourages the fashion industry to “unlock the power of the artisan”, as Carmen says in the film, to prevent these time-honored traditions from becoming lost.
We had the opportunity to sit down with Livia, and she shared her experiences of this enlightening trip to Guatemala with us…
How did your first trip to Guatemala differ from your initial expectations? What surprised you the most?
I didn’t have expectations as I usually keep a very open mind about my travels – I love meeting new people, understanding cultures better and most importantly keeping an open mind about what and who I will meet.
I was surprised though about how wonderful and friendly the people we visited were - I love talking to artisans and hearing their stories and you often realize their struggles are the same as those all over the world.
At what point did you most sense a synergy between the work of EcoAge and Pacunam?
Pacunam is passionate about preserving and growing Guatemalan patrimony and heritage. The Mayan legacy is immense, and I respect Pacunam’s passion to try and preserve it in the best possible way, through growing sustainable tourism to make the world aware of the Mayan culturally rich patrimony.
What is your favorite part of the film and why?
The voices of the artisans are always so powerful - we must listen to them, work with them in partnership and with respect. The women we interviewed were so passionate, and the same passion drove us there.
The meeting of the ‘two worlds’ was so inspiring and enriching – this is what keeps me going. I hope the movie reflects that.
I am not sure I have a favorite part of the film as the journey was made of all these unique encounters…I tell you something though: I suffer from vertigo, and going up that Mayan temple in Tikal seeming to be relaxed was quite a struggle!
Films such as ‘Fashionscapes: Artisan Guatemaya’ illustrate the importance for the fashion industry to respect and acknowledge the work of local artisans, not just from Guatemala, but from all over the world. These personal stories and experiences must be shared, to develop industry-wide recognition that will allow for artisanal legacies to continue.