Dignified Job Opportunities for Guatemalan Communities
Hiptipico is an ethical fashion brand inspired by the lifestyle of female founder Alyssa Yamamoto and the Maya communities of Lake Atitlan. Here is her story.
Growing up in New Jersey, I never dreamed I would own my own ethical fashion brand, nonetheless be living in rural Guatemala for 6 straight years.
When I first arrived to the highlands of Guatemala in 2011, I was working on a different education project and developing curriculum for indigenous students. I conducted many home visits and interviewed community leaders and mothers. I always received the same response from the women. “I wish I could provide a better future for my children. If I had a source of income I would buy school supplies, new shoes and even healthier food for my kids.” Always thinking about the wellbeing of the next generation. Mentioning all of this to me while she's sitting there weaving an intricate and thoughtful design. Feeling like she has no way of contributing financially to the home - I immediately saw her value. I was instantly struck by the beautiful textiles and accessory pieces with eye-popping colors. All handmade by these female artisans right in their homes.
Rarely leaving their community and without much Spanish, most women maintain the home and weave in their spare time. With no access to buyers or a viable market and eager to support the future of their children – emerged the idea for Hiptipico. Hiptipico quickly transformed into an online marketplace for high-quality Maya artisan goods with the mission to empower indigenous women and their families.
Officially founded in 2012, Hiptipico works to create sustainable avenues for local artisans to sell handmade items to larger markets across the globe while honoring the Mayan culture. The name Hiptipico comes from the Spanish word “tipico” and refers to the traditional clothing that indigenous Mayans wear in Guatemala.
Hiptipico's curated collection features the expert artistry of indigenous women in rural Guatemala. Their traditional weaving techniques have been perfected over time and passed down from generation to generation in the Maya towns. Unlike computer-generated and machine-stitched designs, our artisans weave from the heart, drawing on centuries-old wisdom. What is most powerful about the beauty of the native textiles is that the female artisan is intimately engaged in every moment of the weaving process. That is what makes each design remarkable. No two pieces are the same--you can see and feel the passion and dedication woven into each embroidery.
I received my Master’s Degree from Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service, and take a personal approach to running my company. In Guatemala, more than half of the population lives in poverty and the country’s indigenous communities face high levels of inequality, including less access to education and high rates of chronic malnutrition. Living full-time on the ground in
Guatemala allows me to maintain truthful, longstanding and personal relationships with our artisan partners. We communicate openly finding ways to harness their abilities, talents and culture to help them escape poverty by utilizing the strengths they already have. Our artisan partners are not just vendors or a business venture; they are my extended family.
At Hiptipico, ethical is more than a label, it’s the way we conduct ourselves. As a socially conscious brand, we make it our obligation to be transparent and honest with both our artisan partners and customers about our process and giveback behind our operations. We work with individual artists as well as female cooperatives to source, create and design our handmade collection. In founding Hiptipico, my hope was that partnering with Hiptipico would allow female artisans to determine when and where they work. In Guatemala’s rural indigenous communities, women don’t traditionally work outside the home. Now, all of the women we partner with choose to comfortably work from home and make their own hours. This flexibility allows them to care for their families while bringing in an additional income in their spare time. Our male leather workers also create their own hours and produce at their own pace in non-factory working conditions. Most of them are close relatives, cooperatives made up of brothers, uncles and cousins working in small home workshops.
Offering fair wages and above adequate price per item is of utmost important to us. In order to ensure fair earnings, we allow our artisans to set their own prices. We ensure all of our artisan partners have received training and support around budgeting for raw materials and pricing appropriately their hourly salary that exceed the local minimum wage.
I always reiterate to our artisans - they are not working "for" me, but I am working for them. I started Hiptipico to help create dignified job opportunities for Maya artisans. They want to sell their goods and my job is to help find them clients. Using the platform of Hiptipico allows me to show their products and share their genuine story. Now, Hiptipico products can be been found at Urban Outfitters, Free People, ASOS and TopShop stores as well as in specialty boutiques around the world.
Visit https://www.hiptipico.com/ to see their beautiful products.