Slow Fashion’s Mexican Poster Child
Posted On Mar 24, 2017
When it comes to embracing the process of how an article of clothing or an accessory is made, the term for that is slow fashion and no one epitomizes that more than Jennifer Olsen, founder of Boutique Mexico. As an American now living in Mexico, Jennifer has given hope to a community of native artisans by creating an opportunity with her boutique to showcase their skills and talents. And what talent it is! From brightly bold jewelry to woven totes and intricately embroidered clutches, Boutique Mexico is a colorful magnet to even the most jaded fashionista! We are in love with their embroidered birds and flowers on the clutches with its colorful pompoms and leather strap. And the story gets better. Their mission is to help both men and women develop plans to work from home. This, in turn, provides economic stability to stay-at-home mothers with children and the handicapped while preserving the ancient crafts of weaving and embroidery. It is a mission we hope many other talented designers and entrepreneurs in the world will follow. We caught up with Jennifer to learn more.
What have you learned from working with these artisans in Mexico?
I have learned that our artisans have a great outlook on life and are genuinely happy. They have very strong family values. I have also learned that you need to have patience, a sense of humor, and a friendship with them in order for them to want to make the product.
What have the artisans learned from this experience?
They have learned that they are capable of producing way more than they ever thought they could make. We just produced a huge order for a big box store. I can’t reveal who it is until the end of the month. But they are really proud of themselves for being able to pull it off. Now they want more work… Auro, one of our artisans, said she liked being that busy.
Could you tell me how your contributions have made a difference at the La Escuelita de Sonia School for needy children?
Yes, we are helping them with teacher’s salaries. They originally had students that had graduated from the school come back as volunteers to teach. So now we can pay them and they can stay at the school teaching instead of leaving to find work. This gives the kids much-needed stability in their lives.
We also help them out with clothing and bike donations.
If you had to make an impact at the Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve, a World Heritage site near Tulum, Mexico – what would it take – I see you donate a portion of each bracelet to the reserve.
I would love to go into the Reserve and clean all of the beaches. Because of its location, plastics from all over the world end up on the beaches there. I would love to hire a cleaning crew to go in once or twice a year to get rid of all of the plastic. But this would take a lot of investment.
For now, our donations help with the education of the local people on eco-tourism.
Give me one heartfelt story that has really touched your heart since starting this venture.
I met Lucia on the beach in Puerto Morelos. She is a lady from Chiapas that you normally see selling colorful items on the beach in Mexico in a long skirt and embroidered blouse. I started talking to her and she told me she comes to Cancun two weeks out of every month to sell on the beach. She rents a tiny room in downtown Cancun. She has two sons that she leaves back home. I ended up buying some pompoms from her and when I went to her house, I met her husband, Manuel. He has turned into my lead artisan in Chiapas. He coordinates about 20 artisans and they make about 500 pompoms for us a month.
Lucia does not come to sell items on the beach anymore. She stays home with her kids and helps Manuel with their pompom business. I talked to Manuel yesterday and he has the best outlook on life.
Can you explain how the business works and are there only women working with you?
We have lead artisans in the states we work in. The artisans I work with I have personally met and befriended during my travels and have forged a relationship with them. They are basically small entrepreneurs that coordinate our production. They are members of the villages and they tend to be young and educated. They like this job because it allows them to stay close to home instead of leaving for the cities to find a job.
It is thanks to them that I can place large orders and know that I can fulfill them on time.
Both men and women work with us. The Stella totes are mostly made by men because it requires a lot of strength to weave the plastic. We also have men embroidering the Camila pouches.
With all that is happening in politics now with the building of the wall, it is so refreshing to see a business started by an American in Mexico and giving hope to many there.
I have spent 24 out of my 37 years of life in Mexico. I grew up here and my parents are from Mexico City. I love Mexico but I also love the US. I think a lot of people feel like this. I spent some of the most important years of my life in the US.
I think the products we offer speak for themselves; they are beautifully made, by beautiful people, and that is all that should matter.