In the Spotlight: Paula Marra, founder of Matriarca, Socially-Responsible Project Supporting Argentina's Talented Artisans

Matriarca is a socially-responsible project that was conceived by Argentine founder Paula Marra in 2011. It's a collective of organisations, designers and artisans focused on local development and creating a sustainable model of production and consumption in Argentina. Working closely with indigenous communities, mainly women, from different regions across Argentina, the brand fuses traditional culture with modern demands in order to create unique, stylish and ethical artisan goods for the home and your wardrobe.

Read our interview with founder Paula Marra below:

- Some of Matriarca’s main focuses are centered on sustainability. Tell us more about the organic materials you work with?

All of our pieces are created in distinct rural territories in Argentina. For instance, in the Gran Chaco region, the indigenous Wichi community use native plants such as the chaguar to create their products. The inhabitants of these territories understand sustainability better than urban residents as they live surrounded by nature and in harmony with it. Whilst in the Puna grasslands in the northwest of Argentina, llamas and alpacas are native species and the region’s original inhabitants and descendants are the shepherds and producers who shear the animals’ wool and then spin and knit beautiful blankets and scarfs.

- What is the inspiration behind the designs?

 The inspiration is creating beautiful, wholesome and handmade products, using traditional techniques and local materials, while taking into account the tastes of the urban public. 

- Matriarca works closely with indigenous women. Does the business help these women gain entry into the commercial business world without abandoning their cultural identity?

Matriarca works closely with indigenous woman to support and promote the development of the communities in which they live. The main impact is on the women and encouraging their self-determination and economic independence.

- While many of the items sold at Matriarca can be purchased in remote areas of Argentina, you work by bringing these objects into the city of Buenos Aires and selling them within a different context. Do the objects still maintain their cultural significance?

We have many different lines ranging from traditional artisan stuff to more modern designs and pieces. The objects maintain their cultural identity through their artisan production and the local materials used but they have been adapted to suit their new, urban context and the Buenos Aires shopping scene. Matriarca unites modern and traditional cultures in a way in which they can respect, admire and play off each other.

- In what other ways do you believe the fashion industry should and/or could be more ethical?

 The fashion industry faces a monumental challenge, which is to try and educate consumers about the processes involved in the production of their garments. It is a complex industry because all of the parties involved have a huge influence on each other. That is to say, the marketing, the designers, the consumers influence each other hugely.

For instance, those working everyday wake up and simply put on clothes that are suited to the weather and situation. How many of these people consider how long those items took to make, how much plastic was used, how much material was wasted, the fuel of cargo, etc. The fashion industry needs to raise awareness so that the public are able to make educated decisions about what they buy.

- What is your best selling item?

The Yica knitted bags that the indigenous Wichi women create from the chaguar plant. (The chaguar is an indigenous plant from the dry woods of the northern Chaco region of Argentina. Threads are obtained through a long process of harvesting, degumming and bleaching before they are finally woven into bags and other items). The llama and sheepswool blankets made by the Warmi communities are also very popular.

If you're interested in visiting Matriarca’s exclusive showroom among many other up-and-coming closed-door boutiques, book a bespoke Buenos Aires shopping tour with us by clicking on the button below.