Thursday, 1 May 2014

Fashion Heaven Rants Exclusive: From Bogota With Love ... Miss Mochila

Mention Colombia and one cannot help it but to associate the South American country with two things – coffee and Betty La Fea soap opera series. 

Of late, if you’ve been away with the fashion fairy godmother, Bogota, the capital city of Colombia is making its presence clear as the ‘it’ shopping destination.

Step into its iconic shopping mall Centro Andino and you’ll be surprised to see a huge selection of international designer labels from Burberry to Dolce & Gabbana making the mall their home in Colombia, side by side with homegrown designers such as Bettina Spitz and Silvia Tcherassi. What’s more, the city too boasts the largest Cartier store in the entire Latin American region.

But designer labels aside, of late the fashion world are embracing the advent of a new fashion statement hailing from Colombia – the Mochila bags. A heritage work of art crafted by the artisans of Colombia’s Waayu tribe, the creative process does not only involve skills that are passed from one generation to another, but also families as they work together to create these beautiful masterpieces. 

Handmade from the start to the end using colourfully dyed yarns and wooden looms, each Mochila bag boasts unique patterns and colours; hence no two bags are created to look alike.

While Mochila bags is of course, the must-have Colombian souvenir to be taken home, thanks to the chic efforts taken by Chloe Abadi of Miss Mochila, the classic Mochila bags have attained cult status as an inevitable fashion statement among Hollywood celebrities.

For instance, Victoria’s Secret angel Alessandra Ambrosio was spotted by the paparazzi carrying a Miss Mochila bag during one of her many outings. 

Ditto the international publications such as Elle Paris and Elle US lauding its unparalleled beauty through a slew of features as one of summer must-have accessories. Even Vogue Paris declared Miss Mochila is the line of the moment and I could always attest to that!

Eager to know more about Miss Mochila and the trendsetting Mochila bags, I managed to have a chat with Chloe via email.     

What prompted you to market such an exquisite heritage artwork as the Mochila bags to the world?
My husband is from Colombia and I’ve had always love handicrafts, so starting up Miss Mochila was a perfect feat for me.

The name 'Mochila" sounds unique. What does it means? Is it a Waayu word?
Mochila is the kind of bag that is native to Colombia and yes they do come from the Wayuu tribe.

How long does it take for you to elevate Mochila bag status from being archetypal tourist souvenir to a must-have fashion statement?
I started Miss Mochila 3 years ago and this summer the brand will be in its 4th year.  Of course, I really love what I’m doing!

A tourist in Colombia may be spoiled by choices of Mochila bags as it is native to the country. However, what sets Miss Mochila bags apart from the rest?
I personally choose each bag myself and they are really different from the other one you will find around [the country].

I am taken by the colourful prints on the bags. Are the patterns indigenous to the Waayu tribe and do they have significant representation in cultural context?
The bags designs are one of a kind and each pattern is made by the Wayuu people.

How long does it take to complete a Mochila bag?
To accomplish a big-sized bag like the Cartagena usually takes around 3 to 4 weeks.

From my observation, the current fashion market trend is obviously influenced by celebrities. Besides Alessandra Ambrosio who was spotted with a Miss Mochila bag, who are the other Miss Mochila celebrity fans? 
Our celebrity fans include Nicole Richie, lots of Victoria’s Secret models (Ambrosio included), Jessica Alba and many more.

Fashion is a competitive industry by nature and bags come and go according to trends and seasons. How do you keep Miss Mochila products relevant to the constant trend change?
To keep the brand relevant, I’m embarking on lots of collaborations. I did a collaboration collection – a mini version of the Mochila bags with [French children clothing brand] Bonpoint. Furthermore, Miss Mochila products are also sold in Urban Outfitters outlets.

Say if I owned a Miss Mochila bag, what is the best way for me to style it?
The Mochilas are good to be used on everyday purpose. It can be worn as a beach bag as well as a summer bag.  It is indeed an ‘it’ bag in its own right and the colours are cheerful too!

Besides bags, clutches and bracelets, do you have plans to expand Miss Mochila's portfolio into ready-to-wear? 
I’m adding in dolls from Guatemala into the product portfolio. Also in the pipeline is a series of new models, coming soon.

Miss Mochila bags and other accessories are available now at selected retailers in countries such as France, Australia, Canada, Lebanon, Israel, United States and the United Arab Emirates. 

A selection of Miss Mochila products is also available online at L-Attitude.

*Photos courtesy of Miss Mochila.

Miss Mochila at Hartwood – 120, Fordham Avenue, Camberwell, Melbourne, 3124 Australia.

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