A few months before quarantine, I came up with the idea that I wanted to create a sustainable brand. Something that was 100% handmade in Colombia, because I wanted to help the indigenous Colombian community, and so Carola was born. I had always thought “I need to wait for the right moment.” But I realized there’s no right moment, the right moment is right now, I was like, “let’s do it,” and I launched it at the end of March, mid-pandemic.
The people who make Carola bags are either victims of the armed conflict, single mothers, or part of indigenous tribes. Someone that wears a Carola bag knows the whole story behind it. Most of the women that knit our bags no longer have their sons or husbands because they were taken by the guerrillas. Now, they have some hope and a future, so they get away from the horrible past. I was shocked when I found out that 41% of mothers in Colombia are single. That is a crazy amount, so I wanted to give them the opportunity to work from their house so they can still take care of their kids. Indigenous tribes in the Amazon are struggling because we are damaging and taking their homeland. These people are famed for their unique civilisation and amazing artisan traditions but are progressively being forced to leave Amazonia. Sometimes you see them in the middle of Bogota. It’s just not right.
I believe that style and sustainability should go hand-in-hand. I watched documentaries about how leather is made and it’s horrible—the industry, the treatment of animals, and damage to the environment. So with Carola I wanted to create something that was unique and ethical, yet beautiful and fun. Every bag is sustainable because we only use recycled plastic, cumare palm tree, and organic silk. And only use natural dyes from coffee seeds, tree barks, flowers, natural fruits, etc. Also, the colors I chose for each bag represent this tropical land and who better to tell its story than the indigenous communities themselves?
I feel like fashion is shifting. High-street stores and many online fast fashion brands come up with different products every week, which are poor quality but more importantly they’re unethical and damaging the environment. You buy more and more but end up just stacking it all up in your house and you don’t use something more than a few times. That’s exactly what happened with quarantine. Green fashion is becoming more important; people are recycling their old stuff; vintage is trendier than ever. I think this pandemic has made people realize how damaged the world is, how fast fashion contributes to that and they’ve started questioning their own buying behavior. People from all over the world DMed me or sent emails asking about the sustainability of my brand—I was like, “oh, wow, people really do care.”
During quarantine, I started asking people to help me, and realized that people are willing to help you if you just ask. I needed to post pictures but didn’t have models—so I used my friends. I needed a logo but couldn’t meet a graphic designer—so my friend made it and just emailed it over. I couldn’t have a professional photographer, so I took all the pictures myself with my iPhone.
One of the things I’m most proud of is launching my brand at Showfields, in Soho, New York. This dream had a little helping hand from Danielle Bernstein, founder of @weworewhat and influencer with 2.5 million followers on Instagram. She also created this NGO called @WEGAVEWHAT to give back to the world by raising awareness of small eco-social brands like mine.
Everything has been crazy and so fast. Carola has been featured in Vogue, Vanity Fair, and Revista Avenida (just to mention a few). I still can’t believe it! #dreambusinessgoals Be kind to everyone and everything x