The Design-Duo Empowering Guatemalan Women Artisans

Gabriela Luna and Corina del Pinal didn’t even realize they had launched a fashion brand until they were asked what to label their Paris show space and had to come up with a name—eventually settling on a combination of their names: Luna del Pinal.


Defined by asymmetrical, artful designs crafted through woven, embroidered fabrics, London-based Luna del Pinal’s womenswear is unlike anything else in the market. The brand was founded a couple of years ago by Gabriela Luna and Corina del Pinal, Londoners with a design backgrounds in luxury British labels such as Christopher Kane, Roland Mouret, JW Anderson and Gareth Pugh.


Luna del Pina’s textiles are all handcrafted by groups of small, yet fierce Guatemalan women living in remote areas of the Central American countryside.


“They’re all amazingly strong women who like clean, cook, take care of the kids, and work, either in agriculture or in textiles,” Corina says. “They don’t stop working all day.”


“All day,” Gabriela emphasizes. “They wake up at five AM to make breakfast or clean the house, then take the kids to school. Then they do their own jobs and cook for the husband for lunchtime and cook for dinner. There are definitely other women around the world doing this but it’s mental to see.”


In employing these Guatemalan artisans, Gabriela and Corina have allowed them a level of freedom they hadn’t before experienced—they get to earn money, independently from their husbands. “And they tell you about it, ‘My husband doesn’t have to give me money anymore,’” Gabriela recalls.


The artisans work in associations that help source work and regulate pay, but aside from that guidance, the women work based on their own schedules. As Corina explains, “The cool thing about creating this textiles with them is that they can take it and they can manage it on there own time, otherwise their husband might see it is a problem.” So basically, Luna del Pinal provides a way for the artisans to earn their own money while fulfilling their domestic day-to-days.


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The women who weave the Luna del Pinal textiles use a technique called backstrap weaving. “So basically they’ll hang the loom to somewhere high like a tree, a door, or a ceiling in a house and then strap it to their bodies and their bodies create the tension to be able to weave,” Gabriela says. “It’s pretty incredible to see. We both tried it, it’s heavy it’s very hard work, very hard work.


“It’s one of the oldest techniques to create textiles, so like if you go to very old cultures they all have very similar ways of making textiles,” Corina adds. “You’ll find backstrap weaving around the world, but each culture does it slightly differently. So in Africa, they don’t hang the loom, the body creates the tension but [the loom] sticks in the ground.


Gabriela and Corina, who had been friends since university, never set out to start a fashion label. Both London-based fashion designers needed a break from the hustle and bustle of the high-speed industry and took a little vacay to Corina’s native Guatemala for some R&R. Corina recalls, “It was really hard to keep working with young designers in London because it was really long hours, very low pay, the competition…” So they headed off to Guatemala and experimented in a traditional weaving course where they met a group of artisans with whom they bonded.


Being fashion designers at heart, Gabriela and Corina found themselves turning their weaving into a collection. And by the time they were back in Europe, the women ended up sharing a friend’s show space in Paris. “It happened really naturally we didn’t even know what we were doing,” Corina explains. “It was just a genuine interest to go and weave with the artisans, more of a side thing, like a change in scenery.”


Their change in pace ultimately led to the launch of Luna del Pinal, plus an inclusion into the community of Guatemalan artisans. Not only have the women have formed friendships with the artisans, but they’ve learned a new culture and found ways to compromise their fashion industry requirements with the artists’ typical pace.


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“We used to hear a lot of ‘nos’ in the beginning,” Corina explains. “We’re so different from what they’re use to doing, the traditional styles, and at the beginning they used to laugh at us.”


The designs she and Gabriela offered would be quite different from the styles the artists had been used to, and the artists held their work to high standards, apprehensive to take on a challenge they didn’t believe they could meet.


“We used to always convince them if a sample is bad, it doesn’t matter, we just won’t use it and find something else, no worry, no stress,” Gabriela says.


Corina adds, “For us mistakes are just part of the brand because it’s handmade, so unless it’s a completely different tone or design, we don’t mind. We just get surprised by mistakes.”


Over time, the Luna del Pinal founders learned more about the artisan’s cultural standards and learned to work with it, while the artisans understood the pressures of the European fashion industry. The designers speak with the artisans directly, almost everyday, communicating and sharing images over Whatsapp.


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“It’s very human, much more human than in Europe,” Gabriela says. “It feels like human relations are still really powerful I’m not saying they aren’t [in Europe], it’s just very different. More appreciating people and interacting.”


“For the artisans, it’s quite amazing because they never thought they could be able to do this kind of work,” Corina says. “They get really proud like when they finish a textile they’re like, ‘This is so beautiful you’re going to love it!’ They genuinely get excited because it’s something they never thought that they could do.”

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