Washein is a family project, aunt Claudia and nephew Ahmed, working together to support the Wayuu tribe. I spoke with Ahmed, who started the conversation by telling the inspiring story of his aunt, who was a doctor for 15 years in a village in the north of Colombia (La Alta Guajira). She was very aware of the poverty in that region, so she started to think about how she could help to provide more jobs to contribute to the economy in La Alta Guajira.
The Wayuu community have a few traditions about how to wave the straw (a very popular material of that area), Claudia saw in some of them the potential to create accessories (bags and hats). She partnered with a few artisans and started working to create beautiful products. Ahmed, explained also how the biggest challenge at the beginning was transportation, as the main road to La Alta Guajira was very rustic to say the least!
A few months later, Claudia saw how Washein was working very well in Colombia, and how it could have potential in Europe. This is when Ahmed got involved, with a desire to connect back to his Colombian roots.
When talking about the artisans and their working conditions, Ahmed raised a good point, he explained how all their artisans work from home and to an agreed fair wage. But sometimes it is difficult to get to an agreement on the wages as some of the people don’t have “jobs” (or what we consider “jobs” nowadays), they dedicate the rest of their time to the agriculture, upgrading their houses, and as a result, they know very little about business. That’s why the next project for Washein is a social one, trying to build a school where they can teach business to the Wayuu, so they can learn more about their rights, businesses and how much they should charge for their products. In the end, the main goal of Washein is to improve the living conditions of the locals, and slowly they are working towards that.
Like the other brands, we ended our chat talking about where the fashion industry is heading. Ahmed explained how people put a higher value on products that are made in fair conditions, but that the majority may not be ready to pay this higher price just yet. Though the difference may not be that big, price still has an impact on people’s choices. He also talks about the circularity of the business, how we need to consume less as so many clothes are still ending up on landfill, even if some fashion brands have recycling programs.
Ahmed ended our chat with this quote “There is a responsibility with the customer too, as long as there is the demand for cheap products, the fast-fashion brands are going to keep supplying that demand”.