Laura Dalgaard x Pura Utz Marries Heritage & Fresh Fashion
Updated: Dec 21, 2020
As fashion production and the industry at large spins out of control, producing as many garments as quickly as possible, some brands are looking to craftsmanship and heritage to slow things down. Pura Utz, an accessories brand based out of Guatemala, brings traditional Mayan weaving and beading to a contemporary frame of thinking, but not without abandoning the Mayan women who invented and honed the craft. This fall, the bright brand collaborates with Laura Dalgaard, a handmade knitwear line, to create fun and funky sweaters that promise to put a smile on your face through the coldest months.
Pura Utz, meaning "good quality", was founded by Danish nurse and anthropology student Anna, after completing a thesis on the reproductive health of Mayan women. She began the brand to employ and empower women of Mayan descent while bringing their beadwork and craftsmanship to an international stage for a contemporary audience. The brand employs 50 Mayan women and celebrates their beadwork heritage, creating dreamy pieces and accessories while ensuring their labour is properly compensated. Not only that, but Pura Utz makes their pieces as accessible as possible, cutting price gouging markups that we typically see in the retail world. All in all, Pura Utz stands for fairness, craft heritage, and empowering makers, while never forgetting contemporary style.
"She began the brand to employ and empower women of Mayan descent while bringing their beadwork and craftsmanship to an international stage for a contemporary audience."
Anna also acknowledges, in her very personal account of the birth of Pura Utz, the degree to which brown women are exploited in fashion production. She notes that many accuse her of performing as a white-woman-saviour, ~angelically lifting poor brown women out of poverty~. In reality she shares a very close relationship with the Pura Utz craftswomen, developing lasting personal friendships and rejecting any sort of company hierarchy wherein she sits at the top. Bernabela, a local Guatemalan woman who met Anna by chance, is chiefly in charge of all local production, and works alongside her daughter Elisa, as well as an extended team who are named as partners across the website. The brand has produced videos to introduce team members, tackle the issue of exploitation in fashion, and set a precedence of how work conditions, community and proper compensation should look.
Bring in Laura Dalgaard, a Swedish knitwear designer who produces the old fashioned way- by hand. The designer's first claim to fame came about with the virality of her ever-Instagrammable Chloe/Versace/Chanel/Prada/etc logo knit sweater, but offers much more than a sly comment on logomania and couture prestige. Dalgaard emphasizes traditional production in her own way, highlighting the value in handcrafted pieces, and producing knitting patterns to encourage a new generation to create their own knitwear at home. While this seems very early-20th-century, is it so wrong to think that we maybe had it just a little bit right back before mass-produced garments premiered?
Dalgaard and Pura Utz came together this October to release a collection that marries two slow fashion production practices from opposite ends of the globe. Dalgaard's old-European style knitwear is embellished with joyful beaded embroideries by Pura Utz, creating works of slow fashion art. The charming beadwork is perfectly on point in terms of contemporary trends, decorating Dalgaard's fluffy knits with smiley faces, yin yangs and cherries, and is co-signed by iconic fashion Instagramer Lotta Liina Love, cementing this line in the Copenhagen fashion girl hall of fame. This collaboration makes a beyond strong case for a return to traditional design practices and handmade garments. Fast fashion whom?
"Dalgaard's old-European style knitwear is embellished with joyful beaded embroideries by Pura Utz, creating works of slow fashion art."
While Pura Utz and Dalgaard's approaches to sustainable production are a little different, and descend from very different places and cultures, the message behind this collaboration remains the same. Fun, fresh and pointed fashion pieces don't need to be turned out ASAP. If anything, incorporating heritage practices, and putting in time to create pieces only makes them more iconic and valuable. With an insane emphasis on constantly changing fashion, and casting aside pieces we are bored with, it's hard to imagine anything fresh taking its sweet time to get to us, but this collection makes a case that the latest trends don't need to be turned out immediately. While looking to the future of fashion has only gotten us deeper into this fast fashion mess, perhaps gazing back upon tradition is a forward-thinking way to change how we produce or consume. At least that's what Laura, Anna and team Pura Utz have to say.