My partner and I started our company, Rock+Pillar, because of a profound inspiration we felt from Peruvian handwoven textiles. When we first started, our main intention was to learn from and preserve the ancient techniques of hand weaving. Over time, like any creative endeavor, our vision evolved and changed to incorporate leather working. At the core of our philosophy we value the mindset of handmade and preserving generational knowledge of making. We believe that this preservation is integral to not only the individual communities we work with but also to our cultural identity as human beings.
We have been very fortunate to have had the opportunity to travel extensively. We’re spent time in Lima, New York, Boston, Bogota, Bangalore, Delhi, Cusco, etc. Since fashion and designing is not only our passion but also our livelihood, we pay close attention to the apparel people wear in their everyday life. While creative fashion is definitely evident in large cities, we have noticed an undeniable trend. Factory produced clothing and western trends tend to homogenize global fashion. This homogenization, in our opinion, takes away from cultural uniqueness and compromises what makes us different from each other and therefore one of a kind.
This observation makes us staunch believers of the importance of hand making in societies. Besides diversifying fashion and clothing, preservation of handmade skills by consuming handmade products creates a demand for more artisans. Artisan projects are extremely valuable for grassroots development, it aids social goals, and it provides a strong, renewable source of income. We have seen this impact on not only our artisans but their entire communities. In these past two years our communities have built better roads and stronger associations for better trade between communities. Many of our weavers are able to afford school uniforms and books for their children. Most importantly, they are now able to economically afford to send their daughters to school. Income earned through artisan craftsmanship, like weaving, provides our communities with income that complements subsistence agriculture. It also elevates and empowers women to take stronger economic decisions in familial matter and family planning.
We have also seen reinforcement and rejuvenation of ethnic identity and cultural pride in both our weaver communities and our cobblers. The demand that our consumers have created by buying our bags and shoes has brought validation to each artisans’ skills. They’re no longer stigmatized for their lack of education but rather view themselves are proud artisans who can convert wool before its yarn into an amazingly intricate textile that tells stories of their cultural identity. Our cobbler can take seemingly meaningless raw materials like a roll of leather, rubber, thread, textile, wooden foot molds and convert them into beautiful shoes.
We could go on and on about how our artisans are benefitting but the most important reason to preserve the heritage of hand making is to continue our natural, creative inclination as humans to transform completely arbitrary matter into art, to create meaning from raw materials through our imagination. We connect with each other through this creative process. Just like our ancestors thought to take ocher, ash and other plant dyes and create the first cave paintings. Just as the cave paintings told a stories to everyone who laid their eyes on it, handmade tells a story of the people that make it. It’s imperative to know the origin story of your consumption. We can all take part in preserving the pride and heritage of handmade not just in South America but globally. We can do so by consuming slow, handmade fashion and supporting our artisans.
Photography provided by Rock + Pillar.
About the Author:
Alma Hartman is the Co-Founder of Rock + Pillar. Having grown up in India, Singapore and the US she comes from a multicultural background. With an insatiable thirst for travel, she loves to experience cultures through fashion, art & food. In her free time she loves to design RockPillar Boots & Bags.3