When Adele Hammond moved to a village outside Oaxaca, Mexico she was seeking an experience that would expose her family to different cultures. What she didn’t realize, was just how much of a lasting impact the beauty, culture and challenges of living here would have on them – and she certainly didn’t foresee starting her own business.
Despite being one of the poorest countries in the world, Adele found that the local artisans of Mexico possessed rich artistic traditions and skills. What they lacked, however, was insight into the style cravings of today’s western women.
Inspired by the artisans’ craft and spirit, she found herself interested in helping to create opportunities that would better their lives and founded Abrazo Style. The company now employs nearly 100 fair trade artisans, providing them opportunities to grow their skills, confidence and resources. Together, they create beautiful contemporary designs from clothing to their signature bags that use tough plastic lanyard and traditional weaving techniques – the result is a virtually indestructible, stable and waterproof bag.
At Peach, we are all about creating opportunities that help women thrive both personally and professionally, so we were thrilled to name Adele Hammond our Featured Entrepreneur for our Summer 2020 Collection. We caught up with Adele to hear more about how this business, driven by such a powerful mission, came to life.
What was it about Mexico that made you want to relocate your family there?
We wanted our daughter, who was nine at the time, to have a global experience. Moving here gave her exposure to a country where life and language are distinctly different from the United States. While my husband and I had spent extensive time traveling in Mexico prior to this move, Oaxaca was a new part of the country for us – one rich in craft, cuisine, art, and eco diversity.
What is something you learned about the culture through immersing yourself?
It is hard to avoid, and a little ridiculous to assume, that we can shed our histories to participate in a “new” culture without comparing life to what we know. Even after years in Mexico, I catch myself making assumptions about people and life in our village. I assume there will always be running water. I assume people have cell phones or email addresses. And as for the children, I assume they all can attend school.
The real privilege of living abroad is to experience daily life first-hand, in its most raw form – be it good, bad, or ugly. There is no greater way to appreciate every moment of living than to spend time in a foreign culture where even a trip to the grocery store can be full of challenge and gratification!
Did you always have an interest in working within the fashion industry and starting your own business?
That is a very funny question! Fashion was almost the farthest thing from my mind.
I am an artist by trade, and have always taken the path less traveled (which seems to always be the more difficult one). While I had dabbled in small businesses in the past, it was never a goal. Even Abrazo came together unintentionally – I simply had a desire to help the local women generate some income and independence. One thing led to the next, and for the past 10 years I’ve been translating my design/aesthetic experience into textiles and accessories that help bring that mission to life.
You often reference a woman named Martha when you talk about your brand story – tell us a little bit about her.
Martha was a young woman I met in the village who was challenged economically and emotionally. She came from an abusive homelife and just needed someone to care about her. When she tried to sell me her embroidery work, I saw the opportunity to help her by providing her work that would put her skills to use. This is where it all started.
The changes I saw in her and the other women I have been fortunate enough to work with as a result of being given this opportunity, were very powerful. Abrazo has turned my focus outward, working to empower women and inspire their daughters to learn, grow and become independent.
Abrazo style has a mission to create opportunities for local artisans to grow skills, confidence and resources. How do these opportunities impact their lives?
A sustainable income means being able to send your kids to school, provide the necessities for your family, and give back to your community. The opportunity to work with a company, like ours, provides support in team building, skills training, and community engagement encourages our artisans to model that to others – and that can have a pretty powerful impact.
Your daughter had the chance to watch Abrazo Style go from an idea to a reality. What do you hope she takes away from it all?
My now 24-year-old daughter actually works for an organization whose mission is poverty alleviation. Whether or not that resulted from her exposure to Abrazo, I can’t say. However, she has seen the years of hard work involved in creating this social enterprise, and I’m very happy that she is doing meaningful work that will contribute to making this world a better place.
What is the next big milestone you hope to achieve at Abrazo Style?
My honest answer? Survive COVID. We’re a small business and we’ve been hit hard – but we have fought tough battles before, and I think we will get through this. Once things level off, however, we look forward to continuing to build our groups and offer opportunities. One of my dreams is to be able to provide scholarships to girls so they can attend school.
Shop our collection of Abrazo Style bags here.
Apply to be a featured entrepreneur here.
Shop our latest Peach Collection here.