Monthly Archives: February 2016

Protagonist

I recently discovered Protagonist though the tightly curated site The Line that always seems to find the coolest yet most understated items in fashion, beauty and home decor. Offline their retail store is done through a living editorial moment by putting the shopping experience inside the dream Soho loft, known as “The Apartment by The Line“. Whenever I pop in I am always inspired either by the chic curation for the woman I dream to be in New York (think minimal, confident, quality) or through discovery of new designers whom all seem to have an affinity toward elevated wardrobe essentials, the kind of pieces you invest in because they will never go out of style.

Protagonist, under the direction of Georgia Lazzaro, formally of Narciso Rodriguez and Calvin Klein, is a delicious study in simplicity and quality. The Line, known mostly for their shirting, has stolen my heart for their black and white basics, especially in the realm of the LBD. I stopped by their NYFW presentation hosted at The Apartment in Soho to see what direction they are going in and how much I need to save to become a Protagonist woman.

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Casa Palopo

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Carved into the side of a mountain, high atop Guatemala’s Lake Atitlan, sits the tranquil yet stylish Casa Palopo. The boutique luxury resort consists of only 7 rooms with the crown jewel being the villa on the highest perch, a perfect home to share with girlfriends or a small traveling group. The picturesque pool, the outdoor fireplaces, and the one-of-a-kind decor, with many items imported from Africa, make this a total fantasy of living. From veranda to veranda it’s impossible to feel stress here when all your eyes gaze upon is a view of nature’s spectacular show.

I wish I could have spent a thousand nights here, tucked away into the side of the hill, spending my days painting the ever changing colors of the sky and feeling the beauty of life discovered in Guatemala.

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Kelly wears a dress by Jonathan Cohen, belt purchased from a local Guatemalan market

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Mercado Global

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When Mercado Global emailed to see if I would be interested in visiting the communities of their local artisans in Guatemala, I knew it would allow me to gain a greater knowledge as to what goes into their products. Opening yourself up to experiences like these means the world around you changes. Your association with products is affected by sentimental value but goes beyond sales and trends when you understand the craftsmanship that goes into a product: like when I watched how they painstakingly make CHANEL couture or viewed the tiny delicate details of Chopard’s high jewelry making. Once you peek at the process behind the curtain, you understand how important craftsmanship and expertise is.

These women are experts in the traditional Mayan weaving process, an age-old tradition passed down through generations. What Mercado Global helps them achieve is not only preservation of an ancient artistry, but a partnership that empowers women to break the cycle of poverty by helping them run their own independent business. This opportunity creates sustainable livelihoods for their families and can help turn around entire communities.

One woman I spoke with said her husband was in an accident and was unable to work. Being the only source of income, she had to find a way to support her family. Though the business model set up by Mercado Global, she was able to buy a loom and begin producing fabrics such as the ones you see here which are then purchased by Mercado Global. The artisans do not work exclusively with Mercado Global; once they own the loom they can sell their designs to a newly available international market they once had no access to. On her single income, this woman we spoke to was able to pay for all seven of her children to go to school. On average, these Mayan artisans make three times the national average wage of Guatemalans. These women are changing the culture by being business owners and major contributors to their local community, which gives them the power and tools to fight against major issues like female violence, malnutrition, and illiteracy. Mercado Global not only sets these women up for a viable future but also goes into the communities with programs to educate them on financial management, heath and wellness, and nutrition.

There is now a network of over 400 women artisans in over 40 cooperatives throughout the rural highlands of Guatemala. Below are images from the small town of Comolapa we visited, watching as the artisans worked in a weaving cooperative on floor looms, making fabric by hand that would ultimately become the perfect market tote or evening clutch… but this time, with a story of change. I love carrying mine around the city, feeling the fabric under my fingers and the spirit of these women inspiring me to take control of life while being an expert in my artistry.

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Snapshots from Guatemala

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I love that moment on a plane when  you begin your final descent into a new country and you catch that first glance down onto foreign soil. What are the colors? How is the light? What does the landscape look like? I’ll never forget watching the sunrise over the flat dusty plains as I touched down in Africa, or seeing the Patagonian glaciers of Chile streaked in time. Looking at Guatemala from that little frame, I was enchanted with the layers of volcanoes dancing along the horizon line of a setting sun.

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It was just a weekend getaway, a short stop through Antigua, one of the most beautiful and romantic places I’ve ever seen. We didn’t have time to wander around, but I swore I would come back someday to photograph it and stay at the heartbreakingly beautiful Meson Panza Verde. We had a late dinner there on our last night in Guatemala where I discovered its enchantment. From there, we ventured around the lakeside town of Panajachel where the fashion accessory brand Mercado Global‘s design offices are located. The purpose of this trip was to discover the craftsmanship behind these artisanal bags. We spent a little time in Santiago Atitlan and in the hillside town of Santa Catarina Palapo where we slept in a dream villa.

I have many takeaways from Guatemala. The fruit is incredible. The people, so petite, have beautiful traditions they keep despite the reach of globalization. I loved comparing their dress to how the Peruvian women dress, each in their specific way. The colors in their clothing are mimicked in the textiles of the market and in the lush landscape, bursting with flowers in hues of sherbet orange and hot fuchsia. As we wandered through the old colonial built towns, there was the distinctive sound of women’s hands patting out corn tortillas. I’ll never forget the way they tasted hot off the griddle. I loved how drivers would honk as a courtesy, a way to say thank you. Perhaps my favorite feature of this beautiful country though are her volcanoes. It had not been since Bali that I found myself gazing upon such a scene. Every day brought a new view: sometimes we spotted smoke billowing from the top of a volcano, sometimes we admired their silhouettes against a setting sun. I found them a constant reminder that the earth is alive beneath our feet, and as I stood in Guatemala, I was reminded of how alive I am, too.

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