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Celebrating Mexican Artistry with MZ Fair Trade Textiles

Mexican culture is so rich with history and pride that it gives me so much joy to feature MZ fair trade textiles (formerly Manos Zapotecas) on the blog this week! Most people can’t tell by my face, but I’m actually Mexican-American – not Indian 😉 – and wherever I travel, I represent my people to the best of my ability.

I think there are so many misconceptions about Mexican culture and people that are portrayed in the media, but MZ is bringing forward some of the best examples of Latino excellence that I’ve seen in a long time.

MZ’s fair trade practices connect the beautiful traditions of the Zapotec artisans with a wider global audience to give them a fighting chance in a world dominated by fast fashion.

a hand holding an MZ bag

MZ’s Mission

In 2009, Shelley Tennyson (the founder of MZ) was volunteering with a microfinance non-profit in the small Zapotec village of Teotitlán del Valle in the state of Oaxaca, Mexico. During her work in Oaxaca, Shelley offered business classes to various female loan recipients, who were typically local weavers and artisans.

It quickly became obvious that no matter how business savvy the artisans were, without access to a larger global market, they were consistently unable to support themselves or their families through the business generated via their products.

Three years later, MZ was born. Today, MZ has now grown to support over 50 weavers in Oaxaca and is managed by a determined team of 5 incredible women.

Why Buy Fair Trade

Weaving with wool is an art form that’s passed down from generation to generation in some parts of the world. In the past, these skills were enough to support a family, but today is a very different time.

As the cost of living steadily rises each year around the world, consumers are more and more likely to focus their disposable income on fast fashion production techniques without considering the impact it has on local economies and artisans.

With horrendous working conditions and abysmal wages, fast-fashion production techniques are squeezing out local artists from being competitive in the global fashion industry – but MZ is here to help.

a woman walking on a street holding a bag

MZ bridges the gap between artisans and consumers by acting as an extension between both parties. By creating an online platform that is both beautiful and informative, MZ gives consumers a better picture of where their money is going and why their support matters.

Transparency and fair representation is finally equalizing the competitive world of fashion to give these statement pieces a fair chance to flourish.

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Traveling with MZ

I took my Desert Sunset Wool Tote to the Canary Islands to escape the cold, biting winter in London. When traveling, I often carry quite a bit of weight in my purse in order to smuggle additional items onto planes (which often have a 10kg limit) and my MZ tote held an exceptional amount discreetly.

In just the tote, I was able to carry on the following:

  • MacBook Air (+charger)
  • iPad
  • Panasonic Lumix camera
  • passport
  • wallet
  • bottle of water
  • sweater
  • keys
  • liquids (bag of several 50-100 ml bottles)
  • snacks
an MZ bag

I would say that I easily had 8-9kg in my tote, but the weight and bulk were so perfectly distributed within the bag that nobody realized I was secretly carrying 20 – 30 kg in hand luggage.

Carrying that amount of weight can also be quite strenuous, but the sturdy leather strap held steady as I sprinted through the airport to board on time.

My tote was not only beautiful (I received several compliments on it), but it also truly spoke to me as a Mexican-American woman because I knew there was a story behind the bag.

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Unlike on the high street, someone put an incredible amount of love and thought into this one piece and I had the privilege of bringing it around the world on my own journey to self-discovery. That’s why I believe so strongly in buying better, not more – because my decisions make a difference.

a woman walking down a street with an MZ bag
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