Updated: May 5
If like me you have been DESPERATE for new trends to emerge, well dear readers I've got you covered! South American escapism is high on the social media trending chart, from dreamy sustainable resorts like Azulik, to celebrities Lenny Kravitz and Maluma sharing their jaw-dropping homes in the southern sphere (find Architectural Digest links in Credits).
Latin America seems to be where interiors paradise presently is at and we are here for it!
Today I've come bearing gold straight from the Inca moutains with this FABULOUS new homeware collection from WASHEIN, a London-based company bringing us the best that their Colombian heritage has to offer.
Originally started in Colombia in 2017 as a side project when founder Claudia wanted to provide extra work to a local community she knew to be highly skilled when it came to weaving hats. Washein soon became a known entity and decided to expand with a London base where they sensed a growing interest in sustainably created goods. They have gone from strength to strength since, launching this year a whole new range of hand-weaved homewares with an array of colourful placemats and storage baskets in all sizes. This has led them to appear in a string of press coverage around the world, most recently featuring in the Stylist magazine.
All products are created in the desertic region of Guajira by local indigenous people from the Wayuu community. In fact Washein means "our costumes" in the local Wayuu dialect.
Founder tells me: "The U.K market, along with that of Europe, is the perfect place for the type of products we do. We sensed there was a general growing desire from the part of the consumer to look into the global scale effects of their purchasing decisions. There is a real desire to shop independent and support smaller businesses. Consumers want to know where the goods came from, and appreciate the value of the craftsmanship."
THE RAW MATERIAL
The making process typically starts by a journey up into the forests of the nearby mountains of La Serrania de la
Macuira in search for the raw materials, the Mawisa palm leaves. These are then sun-baked for a few days, painted, and carefully split into long thin filaments ready to be woven.
Sun- baked palm leaves not only mean sustainable values but also are a real asset for things such as quality and appearance. They are readily available, incredibly resistant, flexible enough to be woven into almost anything, and have a smooth texture that feels good to the touch and a neutral colour that evokes calmness.
"...the weaving techniques are passed on from generation to generation and are such an
incredible skill to witness"
WEAVE IT LIKE YOU MEAN IT
To the Wayuu people weaving is a symbol of wisdom, these artisans are carrying on centuries-old traditions being taught from young, and eventually some techniques become a right of passage into adulthood.
Their way of living has remained rather untouched over time, and this shows in the quality of the craftsmanship.
Their culture is very symbolic, the designs are the result of a distillation of knowledge passed on over decades that eventually turn into these stylised figures that can be woven in straw.
The motifs woven in the products are full of meaning, often inspired by the local flaura and fauna, a classic design stems from the pattern on the shell of the morrocoy turtle. The more intricate and highly elaborate pieces are a symbol of power and prestige.
"All cultures have myths and symbols that unites its members together and give them a sense of identity."
"The Wayuu do not have a written history, so this seems to be their way of visually expressing their collective unconscious."
CIRCULAR WEAVING GOING FULL CIRCLE
Founder tells me: "The values of Washein are the values of its team. The people behind Washein strive to introduce products that last for long, are attractive to the eye, and are primarily artisan-crafted. We treat our values as means rather than goals, keeping them at the forefront to ensure we stay on track to address the wider issues that concern us, namely the climate crisis and the improvement of our artisans and their communities’ standard of living. Being ethical for us is imperative, it is tied to our relationships with the artisans and suppliers. The artisans we work with generally live in isolated communities with near zero productive industries nearby. This means few job opportunities and subsistence is a real struggle. It would be very easy and tempting for us to exploit this 'imbalance of power' to our benefit, but we see our relationship with the artisans as one between equals, we ensure they are aware of this through transparent and straightforward communication. This we believe is essential if we want to maintain long-term sustainable relationships. It creates trust and keeps each other committed and wanting to work with each other."
products that let you rediscover the value of craftsmanship
ECO-CONSCIOUS IN MIND
Washein say they are fortunate enough to work with artisans whose way of work and life is inherently sustainable. The products are made with materials that undergo virtually no transformation other than being baked under the sun for a few days. Product production is generally responsible for most of the greenhouse emissions behind brands. Through their choice of products, this number is almost negligible. However, they tell me that there are still ways to further align on their actions with their sustainability concerns. Things like packing products in boxes no larger than necessary without damaging them, using paper-based packaging as much as possible, and shipping products across the Atlantic in as large batches as manageable, these are small but important actions that ensure what they say and do are aligned.
founder: "Washein is currently a small brand means we can tackle some of the ethical and sustainability issues through its low-hanging fruits. We are aware that the real challenge will come when our vision for growth starts to be realised and addressing these issues would require huge sacrifices and strong commitments. We envision ourselves as a global brand that does not depart significantly from our current approaches to ethics and sustainability and we have no doubt our actions today are ensuring we build our tomorrow’s vision over strong foundations"
For Washein being eco-conscious is imperative
"At Washein we are always striving to introduce products that raise the bar on quality, aesthetic, and social impact."
All products from https://www.washein.com
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Azulik Resort, Cancun, Mexico
Architectural Digest, Lenny Kravitz's Brazilian Farm Compound
Architectural Digest, Maluma's Massive Colombian Mansion
Washein Photography credits: Alex Edwards