When faced with a task as important as contributing to the preservation of one’s own a culture, conditions of this undertaking can easily become quite intimidating. This is not so for Shirley Gutierrez, the hero of this week’s Brand Focus. With a fearless sense for entrepreneurship, a commitment to female empowerment, and a passion for social responsibility, Shirley is the mind behind Shicato — an artisanal brand with an exclusive design, limited units, and one powerful message to boot.
As an Ecuadorean living in Madrid, Shirley had long been intent on giving back to her country by sharing its cultural heritage and tradition with the world. Inspired by the traditional hand-made work done by generations of Ecuadorian women, she has made it her goal to lead a brand that would do this immensely important heritage justice. Cultural exchange and the maintenance of cultural inheritance for posterity is one of the most important everyday motivators for Shirley, both personally and professionally. This is a value that is a part of the set of core principles of Shicato as a brand as well.
Totes, hats, necklaces — Shicato has it all. The brand’s star products, the woven straw tote bags made from flexible and long-lasting straw grown on the Ecuadorean coasts, are instantly recognizable for being uncommon and distinctive. Fun, playful and full of joy and zest, these bags will brighten your day and be faithful to you in different times of day and various occasions, and for many years to come. The message of the brand is woven into the design of its products, but reaches far beyond the surface. Shicato uses its mode of production as a message to the world. As a reminder that age-old traditions should not be forgotten, and that in the age of commercialization, the unjustly forgotten or overlooked communities of creators deserve an opportunity to share their work with the world.
Following its main mission, as a brand Shicato aims to support creativity, originality, and passion for products created by communities of Ecuador, while at the same time aiming towards giving female workers a better life by ensuring fair wages, industry connections, and other types of support. In a truly unique team of craftswomen, all over the age of 45, the Shicato wonders are made. These women are the main driving force behind the brand, and a continued source of inspiration for Shirley. They work from home, and sit down to weave each afternoon, in a process that yields one bag over the course of three days. It is a hope, and a wish Shirley is very open about, that the team will grow and follow the growth of Shicato as a brand. This would lead towards the establishment of a community of women who work, enjoy their work and are appreciated for it, and at the same time continue to share their handiwork with the world.