Visitors to dedicated trade fairs such as the Tranoï and fans of the Moda Operandi trunkshows will already be quite familiar with the Mola Sasa brand, though the eye catching colours and patterns of its accessories have also been frequently spotted among the hip crowd going to fashion shows. Yet there is more behind the clutches and bangles produced by this brand.
Molas are indeed multilayered panels of cloth cut away to reveal intricate patterns and then carefully handstitched together; the more layers (molas go from 2 to 7 layers) the more fine the Mola.
These panels - characterised by colourfully bright optical or geometrical patterns, abstract motifs derived from basketry and body painting or depicting pictorial scenes - are integrated in the blouses of the Kuna women from the indigenous communities in Northern Colombia, on the border with Panama.
The fabrics are therefore a representation of the Kuna culture, their beliefs and traditions. Women originally started selling molas in 1945 after a missionary bought one as a souvenir and nowadays they are often sold to tourists as wall hangings.
Mola Sasa was started by Colombian architect and interior designer Yasmin Sabet who enlisted female artisans from the indigenous Kuna community of Colombia and Panama to create a collection of clutches: More recently the designers thought about employing leftover fabrics from the bag manufacturing process to decorate wooden bangles.
The brand works with Rosemary and her co-operative of 60 women living in the "Alto Cayman" province in the northern region of Colombia, on the border of Panama.
Each fabric is the particular design of the artisan woman that carefully works on it and the resulting clutches do not look like holiday bags and can be perfectly used in the city even in Autumn or Winter.
The collections offer a wide choice of patterns and palettes that go from light and vibrant for the current designs to dark and earthy for the autumnal season, while the Resort collection for next year features a wide range of animals, including fish and lobsters, parrots, pelicans and toucans, tigers and jaguars.
Since each bag is handmade, no piece will exactly be the same: looks like the fashion industry may be slowly finding a way to combine ethical projects and sustainability with design and with a will to support, preserve and encourage artisanal traditions.
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