Everything you ever wanted to know about Mexchic :)


WHO WE ARE
HOW WE WORK
WHAT WE REPRESENT
WHO I WANT US TO BECOME




WHO WE ARE
Transparency is one of the most important factors any company can offer their clients as a way to understand the ethics and practices supporting the business. Companies need to be open with who they are, how they work and what they stand for. The anonymous large business with no clear stance on politics or the environment is a business model of the past.

It has taken me many years of working side by side the artisans of Mexico to learn what I know today about this country and it's infinitely fascinating, wondrous and rich culture. It is a very complex society, one I respect and admire deeply, I still have much to learn. I credit the artisans we work with and our employees in giving me a perspective on Mexico not commonly seen by a traveler, welcoming me into their homes, treating me like a part of their family, feeding me mezcal and pan dulce, mole weddings, baptisms, funerals and fiestas sharing their histories and wisdom, giving kindness and their precious time. 


When I created Mexchic 14 years ago, it was never with the intention to make a large business, we do not have investors or a board of directors to answer to, we are still very small and independent. I like it that way, it allows me an agility I would not have otherwise, it is a very personal business to me and I always hope that translates into the products we make. 


I am a white American designer born and raised in Miami, FL. educated in NYC. Everything Mexchic sells, I have personally designed but I am also deeply connected to and inspired by Mexico’s cultural history and iconography. I always give credit to the inspirations and the extremely talented artisan communities with whom we work. I usually go deep into the inspiration and process of a piece in our product descriptions. For me that is a very exciting part of the whole, explaining to our clients how a certain piece comes into existence, some items can involve the hand work of up to 4 distinct artisans and years of designing, planning and then producing.


HOW WE WORK
Mexchic sews every single thing we produce in-house, even our shopping bags, and to be able to state that makes me really proud as that is one of our most important components. We currently have 3 female employees, Antonia, is with us full time and is the head of our sewing studio, she makes all of our patterns and oversees productions and quality control. She studied fashion design in Mexico City in the 1980’s and is a literally beaming light of joy to be around. She has been with Mexchic for about 4 years and lives in a small rural town named Tlacochahuaya and has a pet peacock named Sebastian. We have a part time employee named Loyda who is an incredible seamstress, she has her own sewing business making dresses and costumes for traditional dances. She supplements her income by coming into work with us a few days a week which I am grateful for. I keep trying to have her come in more days a week but she is in high demand in her community, we are lucky to have her part of our team. Our other part-time employee is Carolina, a young mother, who is a seamstress/embroider in training, she is really really good and I hope to move her to full time later this year once her toddler son begins school.

SPECIFICS ON OUR OWN ETHICAL PRACTICES
Here is a bullet point check list taken from www.Laborbehindthelabel.org on an ideal working environment for garment industry workers

  • employment is freely chosen
  • payment of a living wage,
  • secure employment
  • safe and healthy working conditions,
  • working hours are not excessive and overtime is voluntary
  • freedom from sexual harassment, discrimination or verbal and/or physical abuse and most importantly,
  • workers are able to speak out and defend and improve their own labour rights through freedom of association to join a trade join and bargain collectively.

I pay all of our employees approximately double the monthly living wage in Mexico, our full time employees are paid with benefits and Social Security. I raise all employees salaries on a yearly basis to adjust for cost of living increases. I pay an end of the year bonus to each employee called an "Aguinaldo" in addition to paid vacation with a bonus which increases according to the government standard each year of employment. I hire minority women who are open to learn and grow with our company. We have an extremely safe, clean, healthy (and beautiful!) working environment which is open to the public by appointment. We work Monday-Friday 9-5, each employee takes about 45 min of break to eat lunch. We have a designated kitchen area and restroom for the employees as well. No one ever works overtime. I care deeply for our employees, Mexchic would not exist without their knowledge and curiosity and pride! A goal I have set for 2021 is to offer a family style lunch for us cooked by a local women in our town, every day of the week.


Keeping our sewing productions in-house has many benefits, we take on more risk of course, and I have more responsibility to my employees, but I am also investing back into the local economy and community where Mexchic is based. Sewing everything in house also gives me complete control over the quality of the sewing and we can quickly create small productions and one of a kind pieces (my favorite part!) without much of a hassle. I think many of the unethical practices coming to light out of China and Pakistan are because there is not much oversight on part of the brands in the factories. One of the only real solutions for larger brands to control abusive labor practices is to take responsibility and own the factories themselves, so there is more control and investment into the community on their part.


We create 90 percent of our textiles with artisans. The artisans work either in their own homes, in community centers or they work in studios owned by other artisans. The artisans Mexchic works with in general have been working creating textiles with us for many years, some of our relationships are going on the 12 year mark. Usually we are not the only company/designer working with an artisan or collective. They have a complex work schedules and at times orders can take months to complete and so productions and sample-making is organized accordingly. 


Typically I begin working with a particular artisan/group because I have a specific project in mind and I will research a very specific method or technique and then find an artisan creating work which will fit into that project. Usually over the course of a year, I will make samples and get to know their working style and through that first year the artisan will also have a chance to get to know mine. I liken it to getting to know a long term dance partner where the beginning of the relationship is without the stress of production, it is more about getting to know one another. And ideally we will continue the relationship through many productions thereafter and learn much from one another in the process.


The artisan always sets their price and I do not bargain. When I make a sample I pay for the sample to be made and a price for production is then set through the sample making. I always pay a 50% down payment of the total order when I make a production. This helps the artisan to purchase materials, then I pay the other 50% upon arrival of the order. I never thought the idea of terms (paying 30% up front and the balance 30-60 days after delivery) was fair, but many large companies pay out that way. Consignment is a raw deal and I would never offer that to an artisan either. It is an abusive practice and I feel as though it is not really investing into the vision and art of the weaver.  I always speak with the artisan upfront about production times, holidays are frequent in Mexico and it is important to respect this and include it into our production schedules. 

Over the last 5 years we have been slowly pivoting out of wholesaling our unique products to other retailers. I found that wholesaling made the end price of our products ridiculously high and it was also just uninteresting for the artisans, my team, and myself to do mass productions. I prefer to take a much more creative approach and make with my agile team lots of one of a kind pieces, pushing more boundaries and having more fun. So the prices of our products because we are now primarily selling directly to the consumer are actually lowering in a sense, but then creating really special labor intensive one of a kind pieces, hikes up the cost as well. I have quite high overhead costs in paying employees, rent and maintenance of our large office space, purchasing equipment, improving our studio and the shared spaces employees have. Shipping is factored into the prices of our items as well and shipping from Mexico is expensive.I do not pay myself a salary, choosing instead investing profits directly back into the business to pay everyone out and place new textiles order with artisans. As a loose general rule, the retail cost you see online is approximately 3 times the cost to make the item, but that mark-up depends greatly on many factors some times we only mark up 2 times, or sometimes 5 because I might only make one piece, but it took me a year to refine the design through sample making etc. Or maybe the item takes a lot of effort o sew in our studio.


WHAT WE REPRESENT
Respect is a very important component when building and maintaining a relationship with artisans (and people in general!) Indigenous peoples have an extremely ancient knowledge base, I am being welcomed into their community as an outsider. Never assume you know more and know better, because you don't. Also, please do not come in to simply mine their knowledge for your own benefit. Honor this. Respect is leaving your preconceived ideas at the door, while practicing patience, listening and learning. Some communities are understandably mistrustful of outsiders due to centuries of abuse by the government and “gente de afuera” (outsiders). Many designers have appropriated traditional iconography from these groups, buying an embroidered blouse from an artisan to then copy it for a much lower cost in India. The artisans in Mexico are aware that this often happens and thanks to communities protesting this appropriation, there are now copyright laws protecting their traditional motifs. Some artisans are not interested in creating new works, instead continuing to create immaculate traditional textiles, using the exact methods and styles their ancestors created thousands of years ago. Pieces for museums and collections. Other communities are very open to working with designers, and other artisans are very open to play, creating new works using their ancient knowledge as a base.  Those are the artisans I usually seek out because I also like to play, push boundaries and explore. I see the artisan as a friend and a collaborator. We work together to grow a new piece into existence. 


Some of the textiles I use for clothing such as cotton muslin and gauze are machine woven and come from textile factories in Puebla Mexico. Muslin is a very humble traditional typical textile in Mexico, used in many regional dress and costumes, so I very much like including it in our mix. 


I choose to live and work full time in Oaxaca because it allows me the agility and freedom to work closely with the artisans and make new things without a formal schedule to follow. We make seasonless, timeless products and do not adhere to any kind of fashion schedule. Living in Oaxaca, also allows me to visit a weavers house to check on a sample or to make changes to a production pretty easily and it is a joy and privilege to be able to so. I find great happiness and pride in my work as a designer. 

We do sell on occasion really special traditional pieces I find on travels which I have not designed and I state that in the product’s description. I am a compulsive shopper and there are so many beautiful things in the markets of Mexico. 


Most of the practices I put into place for Mexchic to follow were learned from reading Fair Trade Practice Guidelines and using common sense (yes!!) in the field. Primarily, researching and understanding the community and history of the community you are choosing to work in is key. Respecting the culture, traditions and people. Check your ego at the door.


WHO I WANT US TO BECOME
We are fully committed to becoming more and more sustainable every year. The majority of what we sell is woven by hand in Mexico with exception to the cotton muslin and gauze fabrics.


For hand weaving, we use cotton yarns and recycled cotton yarns from Puebla, we use Merino wool yarn imported from Argentina, local more rustic sheeps wool and Alpaca fiber yarn imported from Peru. We do not intentionally use synthetic fibers in our work but with the recycled yarns, which we use mostly for our bedding line (bed covers, duvets and pillow covers), there are some synthetic fibers in the mix. By the end of 2021, my goal is to use only natural dyes as coloring, and only 100% natural organic fibers, we will no longer use the recycled fibers, even though they are recycled they are not 100% biodegradable and the color is made from synthetic dyes.


We have recently begun to support a local organic farming cooperative which is producing organic heritage cotton in Mexico. I placed our first order a few weeks ago, for 210 kilos (462 pounds!) of raw organic cotton, which we will need to clean by hand, spin by hand, then dye with natural materials and then finally hand weave into magical new textiles. A Lot of learning on my part and my studio’s part will take place in the process. We need to place the order for the fiber 5-8 months in advance of the harvest. So before planting, the farmers already know they will have a guaranteed sell out. 


In November 2019 we purchased 200 kilos of Ceiba Pochote harvested in the mezcal producing hills of Oaxaca, we cleaned the fiber out of the husk and we will use every part of the seeds, husks and fiber for future productions. 


We have many more exciting projects coming up, experimental collaborations and a lot of learning on my end. I decided to homeschool my 8 year old daughter for the next school year so she and I can travel around Mexico on an exploratory journey to learn to spin and weave and to live more closely with the artisans communities with whom we work. I am organizing a kind of knowledge exchange with each community, in addition to planning new projects with each of the artisans we visit.


By 2025 (5 years from now) my goal is to be 100% sustainable with all new productions. I want to be able tell you where every single fiber we weave with came from, down to the name of the farmer. I’d also like to grow some of the fibers and dye materials right in Mexchic studio’s garden. Maybe even have some sheep of our own! I want to be more involved with our local community through educational programs for young women. We have already started the ball rolling on all of these goals, and I will keep you updated here with our progress. 


I think it is extremely important to keep an open and continuing dialog, which is one of the primary reasons I started this blog. Please check in with us daily via our instagram feed, I use it as my visual behind-the-scenes diary. And also please write to us with questions and comments, and advise (!!)  to hola@mexchic.co
xo,
Christina

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