In a quiet room of Centro de Textiles del Mundo Maya in San Cristobal de las Casas, Mexico, the guard nods permission for me to open the seductive wooden drawers I'm itching to peek inside, each containing one woman's woven legacy. I'm overwhelmed by the wealth hiding out here in the vault of a converted convent, and having it all to myself on this winter day makes my access all the more mystic. I begin to troll through the coffers; each one devoted to a story spun long ago from a woman's hands, shaped into a huipil, which is their form of dress—a woven garment, yes—but also a portrait of a life.
I know that women of Mayan descent, with a back-strap loom tied around their hips, crafted these woven memoirs over many months, tucking their creative life between household labors and the caring of children. I know that some were worn for ceremonies, others for daily life; that all speak of the sun and moon and their cycles, of a community to whom they belong, of creatures who announce themselves in dreams, and plants which nourish and heal them. I know that all of them bear vertical stripes in the warp of their looms, extending from their solar plexus to the sky. And after a day deep in these repositories, I know that there are stories here I cannot ever hope to know, so ancient, so intimate, so other is the language.
The next day, I enter a storefront for El Camino de los Altos, a women's cooperative I admire, which is keeping alive this weaving tradition and elevating it into economic opportunity for indigenous women. In collaboration with a small band of creative and committed French designers, the women of several communities have innovated and brought their stripes to the marketplace. Gorgeously. I asked them then—eight years ago—to make ruanas for Ibu, and have offered them ever since.
Whenever I look at these pieces—including three new stunning designs for spring—I think of their grandmother's weavings, lying in darkened drawers, inspiring the heirs of this noble tradition. Stand in your past, the grandmothers seem to say, with pride. And with your able hands, stripe by stripe, here and now… weave it forward into your own powerful legacy. Now, that's a story I want to wear.
All the Best,