Behind the Label: MARIYA

With the idea to create a brand of beautifully designed mochilas, MARIYA founders Maria-Paula Herrera and Melissa Moriarty created a collection that blends traditional handmade techniques with modern, functional design. Meeting in 2012 out on the dance floor in Bogotá, Colombia, Melissa and Paula have been #girlboss friends ever since, mentoring one another as they started their entrepreneurial ventures with Colombian artisans.

The MARIYA collection of handbags and accessories is 100% handmade by the indigenous Wayuu women of La Guajira, Colombia. The designs are developed by MARIYA and hand-crocheted by their artisan partners, the finest Wayuu artisans.

The brand proudly practices Fair Trade principles and donates a portion of their profits to Aguayuda, a charity that provides water sanitation and access to communities located in the same region where MARIYA's bags are handmade.

We caught up with the fabulous ladies of MARIYA to talk about their inspiration, aspirations and favorite places to go during their downtime.

What inspired you to create your own brand/company? Where did your story start?

MARIYA was born in 2016 over what we like to call a #girlboss brainstorming sesh. At the time, the founders were working and mentoring each other on their own entrepreneurial ventures – Paula with exotic skin handbags and Melissa with dinnerware, both of which are handmade by Colombian women artisans. At the time, Melissa was living in Bogotá and took a trip to La Guajira, a remote desert region in northern Colombia, where the Wayuu women, creators of the traditional hand-woven mochila, reside. We felt like with a bit of editing and modernization, they could lift up the design aesthetic of this artisan craft to suit the modern woman. And that’s when MARIYA was born!

As your brand continues to grow, what creative endeavors do see on your horizon?

Creatively we are moving into edgier designs, while keeping everything we make very functional, something that can be used and enjoyed on a daily basis. We love the initial shock that sometimes comes with mixing modern with tribal. That excitement is what we seek out in our creations and is something we will continues to pursue. We love working with other brands to create unique designs and are always looking for new partners to collaborate with.

Who is your muse? Describe the Mariya woman.

She is provocative. Cool. Thoughtful about the people she surrounds herself with. She's not afraid of being different and is always the first to test the boundaries. She is the type of woman who always appears so effortlessly chic.

What are your favorite places to eat, drink, and shop in Colombia?

Our favorite restaurants are Carmen in Medellín, Don Juan in Cartagena and Andres Carne de Res in Chía. The latter is also the best party in Colombia, hands down (and where we first met and became friends!!). The multi-brand boutique St. Dom in Cartagena has done a gorgeous job of showcasing high-end Colombian designers. We love to shop there. Our favorite coffee company is Azahar Coffee, their café bar in Bogota is just perfect. We also love the Expoartesanias show in Bogotá that takes place annually in December. We show up with empty suitcases and our holiday shopping lists in hand!

In a perfect world, where do you see the hand-made, “slow-fashion” industry in the next five years?

Thanks to Marie Kondo and brands like Cuyana who push the "own less, but better quality" ethos, "slow fashion" is actually becoming a real thing and consumers are picking up on it. Like the slow food movement, we believe that clothing and fashion is certainly next. We think we will see a lot more artisan made goods on the market now that consumers understand and recognize that it is far more rewarding to support artisans than it is to support mass production, despite the higher price tag. It's a very exciting time and refreshing to witness. Less is indeed more!



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