Some people have the travel bug, an insatiable desire to learn more about the world and the different cultures and beliefs that exist in it.
Such is the case for East Dallas resident Kate Garrett. She traveled or lived in nearly 35 countries before returning to Texas to launch her own line of bags after falling in love with a small Colombian community.
Her company, La Viajera, which translates to “the traveler,” is Garrett’s manifestation of her love for global culture.
“I always hoped to be able to incorporate my love of travel, artisan goods, and fashion, and it ended up that I had to start something on my own to make that happen,” Garrett said.
“I honestly fell in love with the mochila — the colors, the story behind them, the craft, and skill it takes to weave one.”
Garrett found the inspiration for her company in the Colombian people and heritage of the Wayuu community, located in the La Guajira Peninsula of northern Colombia, where she visited twice a couple years ago for two weeks each trip.
“I started La Viajera because of a love for Colombia and for the Wayuu people and this beautiful mochila that is part of their heritage,” she said. “I honestly fell in love with the mochila — the colors, the story behind them, the craft, and skill it takes to weave one.”
The woven bucket bags can be worn over the shoulder and come in various prints and colors.
Although she originally intended to resell the mochilas, Garrett decided to start from scratch with a partnership with the Wayuu people after meeting the artisans and learning about the history that is skillfully woven into each bag.
Working with the artisans would allow them to earn a livelihood for their family and community, she said.
Garrett launched La Viajera from her home last August with money from her savings.
“I’m completely self funded and any revenue from sales is re-invested into the business. I am still running my business within the boundaries of what’s in my bank account,” Garrett said.
BAGS INCORPORATE TEXAS LEATHER, COLOMBIAN HISTORY
The bags, although rich in Colombian history, also incoporate Texas leather for a more contemporary take on the style.
Garrett partnered with a local leathersmith to create the leather-detailed mochila that she sells today.
“The detail of the leatherwork enhances the uniqueness of the mochila,” she said. “Leather is applied in small batches using full grain, odd-lot leather pieces hand selected to best match the mochila.”
Garrett views the partnership between the leathersmith, the Wayuu people, and herself as a symbiotic trio that supports one another.
“The mochila is deserving of only the best materials and work, which honor the craft of weaving and tradition of the Wayuu people,” she said.
Garrett hopes to expand her presence in Dallas and share her story with people all over Texas. In the future, she wants to create a line of vegan leather bags.
“While I consider La Viajera a part of the slow fashion movement, a true eco-friendly product is something I would be even more proud to represent,” she said.
Some of the company’s products are available at local retailers including Jade & Clover in Deep Ellum and, Garrett hopes to grow its presence in other retail shops.
“I’ve come so far in just nine short months and I feel hopeful about what is to come,” she said.
“I would love nothing more than to find success on this journey and use that success to support social impact, both with my partners and in this Dallas community. I can’t wait to get back to Colombia this summer and continue to foster the relationships I’ve started.”
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