Sustainable design takes Chilean Mapuche weavers to the Ritz

Design company VOZ hopes to revive Mapuche weaving by meshing traditional weaving techniques with modern styles.

Jasmine Aarons, a Stanford design graduate, got the idea for what would become her sustainable design company VOZ, Change through Beauty while volunteering in Southern Chile’s Araucanía Region with Mapuche weavers. During her time there she came to realize that it was difficult for Mapuche weavers to compete with a craft market flooded by goods.

Determined to find a way to help salvage their rich weaving tradition and turn it into an economically viable activity, she returned to the United States to finish her studies. After raising modest funding through kickstarter, Aarons was able to get her design venture VOZ off the ground.

“We believe in a new future for fashion, one in which old wisdom, sexy style, cutting-edge innovation, and global problem-solving can occur within the same extraordinary dialogue,” Aarons said in an interview with Ecouterre.

The company pairs international designers with indigenous Mapuche weavers. Together the teams aim to create garments that use traditional weaving techniques while taking on a more contemporary style and form.

The use of rich natural fibers like llama or alpaca wool and all natural dyes make VOZ’s products not just socially but also environmentally sustainable.

“Design innovation helps weavers continue practicing, rescuing, and cultivating their native art forms by connecting them to broader audiences and helping them stand apart from the competition,” Aarons explained.

By making traditional weaving methods economically relevant to Mapuche communities, VOZ helps to reinvigorate traditional techniques that might have otherwise been lost to the tides of time.

Today VOZ’s products are available in establishments such as W Hotel and the Ritz Carlton and there is currently a push to get their products into New York’s fashion week, but Aarons is not stopping here.

“I would love to see VOZ flourish into a sustainable fashion operation with various collaborations with artisan cooperatives in the South of Chile, specifically with an arts and design innovation center in the Mapuche heartland,” Aarons told Hand Eye Magazine. “The center would not only be a studio for production, design, invention, and art, but a gathering place for the community to work together, further advance their techniques, and share these opportunities with students.”