The world of transformational festivals is a magical place. One filled with art, wonder, colorful characters, and amazing situations that seem impossible. At festivals, and in every day life, clothing and fashion are a major part of identity. Breaking away from sweat-shop produced clothing is not only essential for personal expression, but it also makes a statement with our dollar to stimulate change in the world. It is no longer tolerable for clothes to be made in unacceptable ways that severely pollute the environment and by exploit the producers. Many vendors source consciously; however, many still do not.
Constantly, in the Global Just Designs booth, the first questions that these informed festival-goers ask is, “who makes this?” and “where does it come from?”. I am always beyond proud to tell them about the women artisans we work with on Lake Atitlán, and the JUSTA Collective projects and programs supported by our designs. I have seen all of this in action with my own eyes from time spent on Lake Atitlán, living in the beautiful town of San Marcos La Laguna. The women are inspiring, and the projects that our booth supports fund empowerment for three indigenous artisan collectives, nutrition education in a rural middle school, and nutrition and creativity programs in a community nutrition center (serving 60 of the most malnourished children and elderly).
Besides these ethical values, the quality of the handwoven fabrics has more intention and is much more durable than most material we wear in the US. We see this reflected in our core items, like our up-cycled Fiesta Boots, with customers coming back many years in a row, still wearing them proudly.
The festival community is a very inclusive, loyal and big-hearted. This community is more tightly bonded than crazy glue, with their dedication to good causes and talented artists spanning across cultural boundaries and country borders. The artisans we work with, and all of Lake Atitlán, are a part of that same strong community network.
This being my first year running the Global JUST Designs booth, I had no idea the size of this festival family until I was in the middle of group hugs all across the nation. Jessi, founder of Global JUST Designs and its nonprofit branch, JUSTA Collective, has been giving Guatemala a good reputation and putting a very lovely face on this project for nearly 6 years now. The lives she has touched seem immeasurable. I feel so blessed to collaborate with all members of the JUSTA team. Each volunteer, friend, and associate I have ever worked with has been an absolute joy. At the festival booth our team of Kelly, Megan, Santi, and I each bring our experiences from Guatemala. We are able to share our personal stories of the women and the culture which encourages others to not only hear about it, but go experience it for themselves…and maybe even make a difference in their own way.
I love to explain to our customers about the origins of the hundreds of designs of fabrics, each one representing a different town, encompassing 23 different native languages! Renewed respect for indigenous cultures is becoming more widespread, and integrating traditional rituals into modern festival ceremony is continuing to spread global knowledge and spiritual teachings. At several festivals this year, sacred fires were kept burning the entire time, much like a Mayan ceremony. People can carry these experiences into their everyday lives, knowing that what they wear helps to enrich cultural understanding.
Through Global JUST Designs, we are building a network of compassionate, loyal, and a more culturally informed community. We are all learning to be more accountable for ourselves and lessen the negative impact we leave on this world. I look forward to returning to Lago Atitlan and recharging my batteries, and I know, without a doubt, that some of the friends I have met on the festival road will find their way there.
Did you miss us on the road? Find our designs here!
By Hazel Rachael, Global JUST Designs Festival Manager