Starting Thursday September 3rd, Uxibal will be hosting a pop up shop in the lounge of The Pioneer Collective. Uxibal sells beautiful handmade boots, shoes, handbags, and accessories while empowering women in Guatemala's traditionally male dominated economy. We caught up with owner Britini and her partner Evan for a special spotlight this week.
First off, how do we pronounce Uxibal?
<< ooh-she-bal >>. It's a Mayan word for sister.
Tell me a bit about the company's mission and products.
I started Uxibal after falling in love with the products Guatemalan artisans were already making. In particular, Guatemala is known for its tradition of handwoven fabrics. Mayan women have been weaving beautiful fabrics from hand-spun and hand-died threads for generations. The styles, colors, and techniques are unique to the country and ingrained in the culture -- they are also incredible. Unfortunately, this skill is slowly being lost as modern techniques reach into rural areas of Guatemala and displace it. Sadly, this leaves many women unemployeed and looking for ways to survive.
Uxibal's mission is to support women in Guatemala. We do this by working with women's weaving cooperatives to produce traditional textile patterns in shapes that can be used in more modern products. Our goal is to no just preserve Mayan techniques, but to share them with the world. We also work with a non-profit called the Women's Justice Initiative which provides business and legal training to women in rural communities.
Uxibal makes women's Boots, Clogs, Flats, Bags, and (limited) Jewelry. Our boots are high quality full grain leather and our fabrics are all hand-woven. All our products are 100% hand-made in our own workshop in Antigua, Guatemala. We use all ethically produced materials, and pay fair wages.
We also have a retail store in Antigua, so if you are ever in the area, come by and say hello!
What are each of your backgrounds?
My degree is in Environmental Studies, from the University of Washington.
Evan has a technology background and has been a freelance software developer for many years.
What brought each of you to Guatemala to begin with and why did you stay?
I came to Guatemala as part of the Peace Corps. I was or working in a rural town teaching gardening and nutrition techniques. I actually became a little famous locally for having a cooking TV show on the local broadcast channel.
Evan came to Guatemala on a motorcycle trip through Central America. Evan likes to joke that I came to live in Guatemala much more altruistically.
We both stayed for the same reasons. We fell in love with the people, the culture, and the landscape. Guatemala is a very unique country, and it often gets lost in the mix of Central America. It's only the size of Tennessee, but it offers and incredible array of environments, from tropical beaches, to mountain towns, and everything in between.
Guatemala is also a developing country, and there are many opportunities. We both recognized that we could start a business more easily in Guatemala than the US, and in the process create a positive impact on the world.
Where do you see the company on September 3rd 2016?
In the next year we have two primary objectives;
- We'd like to grow our retail presence in the United States. Uxibal can currently be found at boutique retailers in Boston, New York, Los Angeles, Portland and Seattle. We see many more great markets to reach into.
- We would like to bring our weaving production in-house. We currently work with women's weaving collectives to produce the textiles we use in our products, but we would like to start employing these women directly. We'd also like to begin offering educational and vocational training programs to our employees.
In the meantime we'll be doing many pop-up shops around the country, and more in Seattle as well!
Where and when will you be set up this week?
This week we'll be setup at The Pioneer Collective, from Thursday, Sept. 3rd, to Friday Sept. 11th. Stop by and visit us anytime 11-6pm. It's located at 100 South King St. Ste 100, Seattle, WA 98104 (In Pioneer Square just north of the stadiums).
If I'm not in Seattle this week, how can I buy and how long will it take to ship?
We're sorry you can't visit us in person! However, everything we have at The Pioneer Collective this week is also available on our website (www.uxibal.com). All online orders ship from our retail store in Guatemala and will arrive to you in about 7-10 days. We offer free exchanges on all our boots, clogs, and flats - so if it doesn't fit quite right, we'll make sure you get a pair that does.