Within one year of graduating from the University of Washington with a degree in environmental studies, local designer Britini Port taught yoga in Singapore, made wine in New Zealand, and finally landed in Guatemala after accepting a position as a sustainable agriculture volunteer with the Peace Corps in 2010. (And we thought we were having a busy year...)
Her time in Guatemala was spent helping rural communities increase food security, and while Port fell in love with the culture and cites the experience as incredibly rewarding, it wasn't without its downside. "I saw the struggles faced by local women on a daily basis. They deal with sexual harassment and aggressive cat-calling in the market, on the street, wherever they go, and there is a constant feeling of inferiority as a woman," she told us. "It really started to wear on me."
Inspired, Port finished her volunteer stint in 2012, and chose to remain in Guatemala to continue to help the inhabitants, women in particular. Later that year, after a successful Kickstarter run, Uxibal (ooh-she-bal) was born.
The brand incorporates traditional handwoven textiles into artisan made shoes and accessories all hand-made by local Guatemalans and Port herself. There is much to love about the boho-chic boots and colorful oversized scarves, but it's the company's mission that's particularly moving.
Uxibal's objective is simple: create jobs for Guatemalans.
"I wanted to give people reliable work that allowed them to earn their own money and improve the quality of life for themselves and their families," explains Port. "We focus on employing Mayan women because they are traditionally the most underprivileged in Guatemala. They have limited access to education, are married at a young age, and have high birth rates—all of which add up to a striking social and economical disadvantage."
While formal education is limited for these women, they have incredible skills in weaving and crafting traditional textiles. Port aimed to capitalize on their artistry, giving women jobs and thus the financial security that leads to personal empowerment on a variety of levels.
Find Uxibal's high-quality (in every sense of the word) goods online. And stay tuned to find Uxibal closer to home—Port hopes to bring the brand to the Northwest for a series of trunk shows this fall.