MEET THE MOCHILA
Traditional mochila bags are created by Wayuu tribeswomen from the Caribbean coast of Colombia and Venezuela. Wayuu tribeswomen are the centre of their households and their children even take their family names. Each bag is constructed from natural materials – mostly cotton, with some wool from their animals – by tightly crocheting each thread. Each one takes around two weeks of full-time work to create.
One day whilst wandering around the famous Chichicastenango Market in Guatemala, Ella Beegling fell in love with a stall selling handmade mochilas. She offered the stallholder above asking price for two of the traditional bags. Having never seen anything like it before, Ella desperately knew she wanted to bring the bags, which she considers “works of art”, back to Australia and vend them, with a conscience, to the local market.
As well as being stylish and thoughtfully designed, the bags are extremely sturdy and traditionally made to carry precious cargo including new-borns or farm-style groceries like corn or firewood.
Each of the bags’ designs are completely individual, incorporating either a vivid colour palette, more muted, neutral tones or monochrome, to suit all wardrobes and moods. The pattern on each bag bears a representation of the women who make them, and their own world around them. Some patterns represent horse hoof-prints in the sand, others cactus flowers or thatched homestead roofs. Ella’s personal favourite is named ‘la vulva de la burra’ and makes her giggle: “Ha, let’s just say it’s a symbol of fertility!”
MEET ELLA BEEGLING
Ella Beegling is a lover of travel, photography, learning and Latin American mochila bags. The lady behind Gold Coast’s vibrant Latin Threads, Ella first travelled to Costa Rica in search of Spanish lessons and new experiences after living in Japan. Beegling says she was struck by a few similarities between her home country and Latin America – in particular, that nature was a major tourist attraction. The trip was a positive and inspiring experience for her.
“It was funny for me when my North American friends in Mexico had no idea what pad Thai was…probably similar to the reaction from my North American friends in Costa Rica, when I finally figured out who Che Guevara was.”
A few years later, Beegling set off again to explore the variety of cultures around Central America and Mexico. Living out of a backpack for a year limited the amount of souvenirs she could collect along the way, however she was enchanted by the weavings and embroidery of Guatemala and the naturally-dyed threads of Mexico.
Ella, whose partner is Colombian, returned to South America last year to hand select many beautiful pieces, including mochila bags from Peru and Colombia, to bring back and sell in to Australia.
She identified a natural fit between Australia’s beachy/boho style and the Latin American aesthetic. These unusually beautiful yet practical bags, knapsacks and purses have translated well, and Beegling has enjoyed successfully sharing her finds with customers on the Gold Coast and in Brisbane.
We Are All Citizens of the World
Having Latin Threads gives Ella the opportunity to encourage people to explore other countries or cultures, directly or indirectly, and not just through fashion but also through language, customs, food and the arts. Ella would love for her buyers themselves to be able to seek out the origins of the bags she sells, to make their own explorative journeys, as she did.
“We are on our way to closing the gap of lifetime learning. No, Mexico isn’t in South America, Costa Rica isn’t an island and Colombia has so much more to offer than drugs and yellow fever.”
Ella cites knowledge and open-mindedness as her main inspirations – she hasn’t yet exhausted her own learning into the products she sells. She intends to find out yet more about the people she buys from and their way of life, which she will continue to share along the way by bringing both the colours and indigenous traditions of Latin America to the local Queensland market.
TO MARKET TO MARKET
Find Latin Threads:
Brisbane: Boundary Street Markets
Currumbin: Sanctuary Markets
Gold Coast: Design Markets
Southport: Chinatown Street Markets
Surfers Paradise: Saturday Style Markets
Insta: @latinthreads Facebook: facebook.com/latinthreadsgc