Upcycled Couture Hits Cartagena de Indias, Colombia

By Abigail Bates, Kiva Fellow


During my recent visits with borrowers from Fundación Mario Santo Domingo (FMSD), a Kiva Field Partner based in the Coastal Region of Colombia, I was fortunate enough to meet Miriam, an innovative craftsperson, mother of two, and vivacious conversationalist. Miriam has officially been in business making handbags, skirts, hair accessories, and other products for about 20 years in Cartagena de Indias, but she has been honing her craft for an impressive 42 years, since childhood.  


“Everyone in my family knows how to do this and I started when I was nine years old,” she explained nonchalantly. And Miriam’s family remains involved in her business. Although she sells most of her products directly from home, her 33-year-old daughter often serves as a walking advertisement: “She wears what I make and then her friends want to buy products from me. It works well.” 


After chatting for some time, Miriam began showing me her collection and explained to me that she incorporates designs made with recycled tabs from aluminum cans into her traditional thread work. “I buy the tabs from the market, but if I see them in the street, I just pick them up and wash them really well before using them in my designs.” 


Having studied Sustainable Development and being an enthusiastic “reduce-reuse-recycler,” my excitement was hard to contain. Catching on immediately, she excitedly exclaimed “Ah! You like this! You’re going to learn!” In just a few minutes, Miriam was giving me a simple lesson, pictured below.





I think it’s safe to say that me producing a design as skillfully and effortlessly as Miriam is unlikely at this point, but the opportunity to learn from her was incredibly humbling – and not to mention – fun! 

To support borrowers like Miriam through Fundación Mario Santo Domingo in Colombia, clickhere and/or join the Friends of Fundación Mario Santo Domingo Lending Page!

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