COUTUME’s story probably began a few months earlier in Paris. I had stopped working in the fashion industry and had already taken a few months off to travel to give myself some time... I was looking for a new path to follow as a designer and wanted to return to the source of textile manufacturing, to pure craftsmanship. It was a bit like opening the notebook to a blank page.
It was undoubtedly a photo found in a textile magazine that gave me the direction. A Guatemalan woman, seated at the foot of a tree, was weaving on a loom hung between her hips and the trunk in front of her. All around her were large, vibrant green leaves and immense trees... I'd never seen anything like it, this simple, beautiful link between craft and nature.
At the bottom of the page, I found the address of the Cojolya textile cooperative on the shores of Lake Atitlan.
I spent two years in Guatemala, working for the Cojolya Association, which shared its century-old textile knowledge and techniques with me. It was an extraordinary collaboration between master craftswomen and designers to develop new objects and projects and grow together.
I've become attached to the people, this country, this culture, and these places. I'm one of those travelers who can't go home—those who cling to the little things that become like photographs, memories stuck to their bodies.
My little things were the golden dust mixed with the evening light. Humidity in the shade of gardens or vine flowers swaying in the wind. It was the battered colors of Antigua's streets: terracotta red, ochre, and indigo. The shades of orange and black between the cliffs that fall to the lake; these intervals of sunlight.
Guatemala shows you these little wonders, sometimes impalpable, like a balm that heals everything: as far as the eye can see, the bluewater that reflects the clouds like a mirror. The volcanoes that rise out of the mist in summer and, like us sometimes, tremble with a dull shudder. Guatemala wakes you with the songs of birds, the sound of clapping hands on tortillas, and the smell of wood fires rising above the city.
It's that indescribable force that holds you, a beauty that strikes you in the wide open spaces, or the gait of a woman carrying a basket on her head.
Strangely enough, the confusion and disorder entered my life like a freedom. I loved rummaging through the piles of fabrics spread out on the bazaar floor or in the back of the stores, plunging for hours into the archives of the "bodega" to empty all its treasures of yarns and patterns. I loved being jostled between market stalls and riding in the back of pick-up trucks, my hair blowing in the wind. I almost felt a sense of tranquility when, with the windows open to the street, I could hear the children laughing in the courtyard while the dogs barked on the roof.
On my return to France, I founded Coutume, a company that is slowly growing, like a love story, like a family between France and Central America. I put all those memories, colors, and textiles I loved into it. I always enjoy discovering new inspirations and old samples and browsing antique markets and workshops.
With each trip, I rediscover that great humanity, hearty laughter, and boundless kindness. I continue to be inspired by those family members, friends, and artists who put tremendous energy into projects that benefit their communities and planet and continue to weave the textiles that define their culture and identity.
I feel truly fortunate to collaborate with these artisans, to build new objects with them, and to reveal through Coutume the beauty of their fascinating craftsmanship.
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