When we search for new products, we first want to learn the story and production behind it, then we not only get a new sustainable brand online, but many times we get a new friend, a person that shares the same values than us, and want to support remote communities around the world.
Daniela from Shigra World is one of those designers, she does a beautiful work with the Indigenous communities from Ecuador.
Please tell us a little bit about yourself… Where are you from, and where do you live right now?
I was born and grew up in Quito - Ecuador. My soul has always been nomadic, entrepreneurial and philanthropic. I studied and worked in the Corporate World in 3 continents for 12 years. And when I decided to start this project I established my base in Ecuador, where most of the tribes from our project live. However, I am a nomad traveling around the world, sharing the story of our tribes and selling the amazing products we create together.
What made you decide to work with indigenous tribes in Ecuador? How long ago did you start?
When I quit the corporate World I decided to start my own project. Many business ideas didn't go through, and finally after the big Earthquake of Ecuador 2016, the idea was born. It all started as an initiative to rebuild the economy of the earthquake victim towns, based on an Artisan product improvement program (Panamá hat, tagua,etc) accompanied by tourism activities on the Coast of Ecuador. That is when I discovered the other amazing Artisan treasures Ecuador had, such as the Shigra bags and textiles. I saw an opportunity to help these techniques not to extinguish, establish fair trade programs, and work on product improvement. Armadillo Stores was then born in 2016 and continues to grow with a very clear mission of social Responsibility and sustainability.
Please tell us about your production process and the people that you work with.
The kichwa communities are tribes that live in the Andes mountains 4.000 meters from sea level. Their roots go back to the Inca Empire. Shigra bags have existed for centuries, and have been used to carry seeds into the fields. This technique is passed along through generations and is now in risk of extinction.
The process starts by choosing a cabuya leaf with the right size and maturity (agave family plant), hitting the leaf with a rock or leaving it on the road so that cars ran it so the fiber starts to show up. Then the leaf is left 10 days in a small pond until all the green is rotten, then only the white fiber is left. Then the fiber is washed, and died in a hot pot.
With a small needle, the bag starts by the base with a round shape weaving technique, and it switches to a technique that weaves separately each color upwards. Different symbolic Inca figures are woven and after days the bag is finished. The bags can take from 20-90 days according to the size.
What would you like to change in the world that we live in?
I would love to live in a world where every human being has a connection/responsability towards another human from another continent /different lifestyle and economic status. This would make every human more conscious of reality, and will generate cultural enrichment.
Which places you recommend to visit in Ecuador?
I recommend 3 places.
The Andes mountains and it's indigenous communities such as Cotopaxi, Chimborazo or Otavalo Imbabura.
Pacific Coast ( Manabi province). This is where the toquilla straw hat well known as "Panama Hat" has been woven for thousands of years. Nature, archeology, gastronomy, and Artisan products, all found in one spot.
Galapagos Islands. A world natural treasure in the middle of the Pacífic.
"A journey of a thousand miles must begin with a single step" Lao Tzu