In recent years, El Salvador has seen a rise in the number of fashion startups led by women. Highly talented female designers have come to the fore. Injecting innovation into traditional artisanal production techniques and products to create original designs with indigenous characteristics, some of these designers are gaining prestige at home and abroad with their clothing and accessory lines. Aside from outstanding aesthetics and quality, these products generate employment and keep traditional practices alive.
Until recently, many crafting techniques were at risk of being lost in El Salvador due to crafts being unappreciated and undervalued. Historically, El Salvador has been one of the leading producers of high-quality indigo. Still, slowly this natural dye has been replaced by artificial coloring agents that made indigo almost disappear. As a result, designers are making efforts to preserve crafting techniques by creating products with contemporary designs that use local raw material.
Today, high-end Salvadoran fashion businesses are using traditional crafting techniques to add value to their products. This has lead to a jumpstart in traditional sewing and indigo dyeing techniques, with designers working alongside native communities of Salvadoran artisans and applying traditional knowledge to their work.
Luna Mena® and Eva Innocenti are two inspiring examples of how design and culture can work side by side.
A brand renowned for its leather goods, household textiles, women’s apparel and jewelry, Lula Mena® creates unique, handmade, eco-friendly and innovative products and designs under fair trade standards. Named after the company’s owner, the brand generates hope, transforming the lives of many vulnerable women in high-risk areas of El Salvador.
By integrating design and traditional knowledge, the collections under the Lula Mena® brand follow five principles:
Intellectual property (IP) plays an essential role in Ms. Mena’s business. Developing products under the trademark Lula Mena® since 2013, the successful entrepreneur manages her IP assets carefully. The designs for her original collections are also registered with the national IP office.
Luna Mena® has already received national and international recognition. In 2019, Forbes Central America and Dominican Republic selected the company as one of 30 Promising Businesses of 2019. FIRST Magazine awarded Lula Mena® the Award for Responsible Capitalism, an accolade instituted to honor business leaders who excelled in commercial success and social responsibility.
Motivated by a desire to create beautiful, luxurious, finely crafted purses and leather goods, Salvadoran designer Eva Innocenti launched her brand, Eva Innocenti, in 2015. Each design is inspired by Ms. Innocenti’s lifelong fashion sense and appreciation for artisanal workmanship. Her attention to detail and passion for her products’ handmade elements create a combination of quality and timeless elegance with a modern twist.
Ms. Innocenti’s brand vision is to create exquisite and feminine designs for sleek, powerful and versatile women. Incorporating high-quality leathers from El Salvador with custom 24K gold-plated hardware, she creates one-of-a-kind designs loved by her customers. The products are ethically handcrafted in El Salvador by expert artisans, and part of the designer’s mission is to promote El Salvador’s high-end artisanship in order to make a positive impact on local communities.
IP protection also plays an important role in the business model of Eva Innocenti. When the designer launched her brand in 2015, she registered the trademark “Eva Innocenti”. In addition to a registered trademark, the one-of-a-kind designs of her original purses and leather goods are registered with the national IP office.
In addition to their immediate impact on the artisans of the local communities, Salvadoran fashion businesses have had a significant secondary impact on sectors of El Salvador’s economy.
Local leather producers, agricultural and fishing sectors, in particular, have benefitted, as they provide the raw material for the finished products. Ms. Mena and Ms. Innocenti emphasize their commitment to sourcing materials from these sectors, as well as relying on artisanal skills of local communities. These local and ethical production techniques have contributed to the added value of their products.
The work provided by Ms. Mena and Ms. Innocenti is also helping to empower women as heads of households. By providing sustainable work opportunities, the artisans are able to improve their quality of life.