Helping Handbags Project

Helping-Handbags take eco-friendly to the next level. Made in an Ecuadorian cloud forest that resembles a heaven on Earth garden of Eden where unknown species of butterfly jump from sprawling orchid coves at each turn. Our Helping-Handbags are made from the fibers of the Cabuya plant (Furcraea andina). Here’s how:

First, women, from the community group, isolate exposed areas along the mountain paths that are susceptible to erosion and have planting parties called mingas where old and young gather together to seed the sacred Cabuya. It is these same plants that will be sustainably harvested for the fibers used to make the Helping-Handbags and not wild harvesting that could result in the depletion of natural stands of Cabuya. They always plant more than they harvest to leave the environment replenished with this endemic power plant.

Only after this giant aloe-like plant spreads its over 6 ft fronds at full maturity and continues its natural process through seeding its successor do the guides from the women’s group carefully select individual plants for harvest. The technique, using ancestral wisdom passed down through the generations, draws the strong fibers carefully out of each leaf. This begins the production process and the Cabuya’s journey from local life force to handmade Helping-Handbags formed from thousands of sacred geometric macramé knots.

A Helping Handbag

The fibers are alternated between cool and warm temperatures as well as direct sunlight and shade, promoting a natural tempering process, strengthening and adding longevity to each thread. Flowers, roots, and trees like the Sangre de Drago (Croton lechleri) that grow in harmony around the Cabuya in the cloud forest now come together with the threads as natural dyes that span the spectrum of Earth’s tones. After centuries of use as natural paints for the body, traditional crafts, and ceremonies, you can be sure these colors are safe and won’t run! From here the women begin a local form of macramé that can only be brought to a high level of craft through a careful sensitivity of the bends and folds of each thread of Cabuya fiber. After many delicate knots, ties and holds, each Helping-Handbag comes to life. The deep tradition and reflection of the environment and culture can be felt in the dynamic design of each bag.

The feel and care through a time-honored tradition gives a level of energy that you can feel imparted into each bag as style, strength and love. There is no factory, no boss. There is only a collective group of individuals doing what they enjoy in a way that maintains access to the roots of their cultural tradition, all in an effort to protect what they love and need the most, a healthy, safe and functioning community, economy, ecosystem. You have the opportunity to connect with the energy of the person who makes this bag; each bag represents the thoughts and feelings of this person. Their hopes and dreams are something we all share together, the access to basic necessities and the protection of their forests.

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