Fashion / Shopping

Dallas Entrepreneur Embraces the Slow Fashion Movement

Handmade Colombian Bags are a Different Type of Splurge

BY Mary Spencer // 11.30.17
photography Courtesy La Viajera

Dallas native Kate Garrett has always been inspired by the vibrant colors and vitality of the Spanish-speaking world. Post-college, her plan was to teach English in Argentina, but instead, she ended up living and traveling throughout Ecuador, Peru, and Colombia.

After returning to work in Dallas for several years, Garrett craved more freedom, flexibility, and creativity in her professional life. Having fallen in love with the craftsmanship of woven goods that she encountered in Colombia, she recently launched her own business, La Viajera — a line of colorful, geometric-patterned mochila bags handmade by Colombia’s Wayuu people.

PaperCity catches up with Garrett to chat about her passion for travel, design inspiration, and appreciation for the slow fashion movement.

Are all of the woven goods in your collection Colombian?
All the mochilas, textiles, clutches, and pompoms are made by the Wayuu in La Guajira Colombia. The leather on the mochila (strap and fringe) and the mini mochila (strap) is hand-cut and applied just outside of Fort Worth. The leather strip on the monedero pouches is added in Colombia.

The mochila is deserving of only the best materials and work, which honor the craft of weaving and the tradition of the Wayuu people.

You describe yourself as “casi Latina.” What first sparked your interest in South American culture?
Exploring a new place is when I feel most like myself and at peace. I also speak Spanish and am always looking for the opportunity to improve my skills. When I get the opportunity to visit a Spanish-speaking country, it feels a little like going home.

From studying abroad in Spain and living in Ecuador, as well as briefly living in Lima and Mexico City, Spanish-speaking countries have always been my jam — the colors, the people, the culture, the food, the drinks, the vibrancy, and the artisan goods.

What is your favorite piece from your collection?
I have a lot of love for the leather mochila — it was and continues to be the signature piece behind La Viajera. But I’m really feeling the mini since it was introduced last spring. It’s the perfect travel accessory and colorful statement piece.

What makes the mochila a great bag?
They are boho yet have an element of sophistication; they can fit as much or as little as you’d like; and the craftsmanship quality is high. You’re buying a piece that will always be beautiful and timeless. You’re also supporting the culture and tradition of a native group of people.

Have you always had an interest in fashion and design?
Most of my professional experience has been in nonprofit work. My heart always led me to a path of service in some way. [The idea for] La Viajera was one I couldn’t shake since my husband and I visited Colombia in December 2015.

There is so much power in being a responsible consumer or an advocate for the slow-fashion movement. These bags are the heritage and livelihood of a native Colombian people. This startup has helped me find purpose and expression in a way that I craved in the past.

In addition to online, La Viajera is available exclusively in Dallas at Jade & Clover. How did your partnership with the boutique develop?
Last fall, my husband and I rode our bikes down to Deep Ellum to get a beer at Brain Dead, and I noticed this gorgeous store next door that I’d never seen. We hopped in, and it had the coolest vibe. It turned out to be [Jade & Clover’s] opening weekend.

I went back the next week and introduced myself to [the owner] Giselle, told her what I was doing, and she was totally in. She bought the first four leather mochilas in La Viajera’s collection.

Do you plan to expand your business to more brick-and-mortar locations?
Authenticity has always been really important. I’m working to get out into the community through markets, shows, and partnerships with other local brands and boutiques. To be able to touch, feel, and see in person is key for an Internet-based brand.

What new products do you hope to introduce to La Viajera?
I’m a vegetarian, so a vegan leather line of bags is something that I’m super interested in bringing to fruition. A true eco-friendly product is something I would be proud to represent.

I have some ideas for how I’d love to see the brand grow, but I’m very focused on a core group of cohesive products as I continue to work to introduce La Viajera and build brand awareness.

La Viajera, available in Dallas at Jade & Clover; click here for info on upcoming trunk shows.

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