Ethical Closet Series: JetLagMode
The Upcycle Foundation is excited to introduce the Ethical Closet Series!
A series of interviews and Live conversations that celebrate the sustainability efforts of our favorite brands!
Our goal with this initiative is to provide you with brands that are good for the planet and good for the people, so that you can build an Ethical Closet that is true to your style.
This week we talked to Carolina Baena, founder and designer of the accessory brand JetLagMode. Don't miss our Instagram Live with Carolina on Friday May 1st, 6pm EST at @gabriellasmith.
Read interview below:
UP: Tells us about your brand, why did you start your label?
CB: Jetlagmode is a conscious brand that seeks to rescue the local Latin American techniques, by working directly with artisans to make products that are 100% handmade. Through the connection with a group of single mothers, Colombian artisans, full of talent in their hands, we have the opportunity to create modern products to offer all over the world. After some time in the market, we started to approach sustainability not only from how pieces are made but also with what is created. Now we work with recycled and eco-friendly materials to create our unique yet stylish and luxurious accessories.
Jetlagmode was founded by Colombian designer Carolina Baena, who finds inspiration in her travels, encounters with different cultures, and the people she meets along the way. Baena, an Industrial and Fashion Designer, infuses each design with a balance of creativity and functionality.
Versatility has become one of the most important characteristics of the brand, offering the fabulous plus to the customer to use each piece in different ways. This allows the product to reach out to a bigger crowd and gives more women around the world the opportunity to play with their multifunctional accessories, by mastering the art of removable studs that change completely for a different occasion.
The experience of wearing Jetlagmode is empowering for women: you are the one who decides when and how to wear it, and it has a REAL and significant story behind it.
UP: How do you choose your materials?
CB: We look for what is available in our market. In Colombia, we take advantage of a huge benefit this country has: Colombians are makers, which means there are many small and big factories in practically every city. So, we save some of their "leftovers" to transform them into something beautiful. We reuse materials such as wood, beads, fabrics, and brass. Having the opportunity to create accessories facilitates this process because we only need small pieces of everything to make the final product.
UP: Who makes your collections?
CB: Our team is divided into 3 different groups:
- Single mothers located in Medellin. This amazing group of artisans, that is the core of the business, is made up of 9 strong women, who have the chance to work from home to take care of their families.
- Our jewelry team located in Cali. There we have women and men working together, this is a group of 6 more people.
- The Embera community located in a little village close to Medellin. They are the experts in beaded work, the magicians behind the most challenging pieces.
One of our most important members of the team is Edilma, our Artisan's Leader. She's my right hand and a woman with more than 25 years in the business. She has worked with different groups of artisans and created all kinds of products for small and well-known established brands in Colombia, so her expertise and guidance in this area is key.
UP: How do you assure they are paid fairly?
CB: By paying what they ask for. This is such a difficult question, because as leaders of the team or as "visionaries" we feel that we can just put a price in people's work, but only who's behind it, hands-on, can be conscious of the amount of time and effort that's put in each piece. For me, it has been incredible to have the chance to communicate with my team and let them guide me in what is fair.
UP: How often are you in contact with your artisans, factories, and seamstresses? Do you visit them?
CB: I try to travel to the locations every 3 months, but we are in contact practically every day. Having the chance to travel and be with the whole team in person is the best moment for all of us.
UP: How many collections do you make a year?
CB: We create two main collections a year and launch mini capsules or special products in between, to keep it interesting and have a surprise factor.
UP: Which one is your favorite piece in this collection?
CB: The peach waterfall handbag (pictured above). I am so proud!!! It is such a piece of art. This product was created by three different people and is the result of the synchronicity of great teamwork and high-quality development.
UP: What advice do you have to create an ethical closet?
CB: Buy consciously, do the research, and ask questions. But also complement those special pieces with second-hand products; there's an infinite world out there filled with incredible things that can end up in the trash. Rescue them, redo-them, upcycle!