Voz: A Luxury Powerhouse That Exists Between The Tension of Art & Fashion
There is a brand that is redefining luxury in every facet of its mantra. VOZ, which means, “voice” in Spanish is literally a creative engine which has just that … A Voice. This stellar brand gives an economic voice that empowers indigenous artisans who are producing exquisite work.
VOZ is an artesianal luxury fashion brand, with a goal to bring work back to rural areas and indigenous heartlands. Built on authentic relationships of respecting culture and community, the brand has manifested into a platform where artisans preserve their own culture and prosper from their own talent. For founder JASMINE AARONS, bringing the design tools and collaborative design education to rural areas so that “indigenous artisans could continue to make their exquisite proprietary arts and designs”, has created a profound partnership for change. What the artisans have undoubtedly been missing, is the access to the markets due to lack of design tools and marketing meditation. Together, they tap into the fashion market by creating wearable luxury designs.
It’s not everyday that you find a brand so heavily rooted in culture and community. In fact, VOZ started this journey because Aarons valued ceremonial and anthropological design. “I cared deeply about learning about how design was used for community purposes and for rituals. I studied throughout the Andes with artisans and shamans, learning how they used design, materials and symbols in order to practice their craft work and bring their community together.” With this platform of knowledge and respect, VOZ was able to curate this meaningful way of designing and branding.
Although headquartered in Termuco, Chile and founded with Chilean Mapuche artisans, VOZ is a global brand. They work with knitters in Peru and for Spring/Summer collections they work with a very beautiful cotton and silk weaving cooperative in India. “The idea behind VOZ is that while we stay true to our Chilean roots and aesthetic, we are also a global platform.” It is no secret that global intersections of culture have been more readily accessible due to social media and the internet. We are all becoming much more globally connected, which of course has affected fashion. Although not competing with fast fashion retailers, this CEO notices that people are going out of their way to find meaningfully crafted fashion and design that tells a story; mitigating the desire for cheap unethical knockoffs. Niche and specialty crafted slow fashion is becoming an integral part of people’s wardrobe.
As fashion evolves, the ideology of sustainability will become more prevalent and will arguably the most important factor in the future of fashion. In understanding this brands mantra of sustainability, Jasmine defines it as “something that can self continue and is not reliant upon outside means in order to continue in the way that it has been. Something that can continue to grow and flourish and be in harmony and balance independently of outside factors.” Latin American countries are experiencing very few jobs and economic opportunities. Due to the ‘importation of knock offs and rural flight’ these communities lack self sustaining models. For VOZ, the social-economic angle of sustainability is focused on bringing economic prosperity to the artisans that they work with. Creating an empowering chain of production that is healthy, creates a cycle of growth. From an environmental point of view, they go out of their way to source natural fibers and are using materials that are as local as possible to the Andean region. Merino wool, silk, alpaca and linen are among the staples. “We are environmentally mindful because in order to create a business that is healthy in its entirety and honors the earth and the people who live on the earth – we do have to consider holistically everything that goes into our products as well as the economic process and system that we’re creating.”
Sustainability for VOZ is a contained cycle that can perpetuate itself to be a succession of wellness around their fashion. However, “In order for it to be sustainable, it has to look and feel beautiful and be attractive and desirable”. This pillar of sustainability is a key part of the business because otherwise they would be dependent on donations, which is not their goal. Their aim is to create something that people want to buy through quality design. It’s very simple; there is no sustainability if the products aren’t beautiful.
Overall VOZ has governed its brand always having awareness to cultural sensitivity and community considerations. Asking themselves, “How can we commercialize in a way that is that is healthy and respectful and truly beneficial.”, requires numerous round table discussions. They are continuing to cultivate a brand around respect of the artisans; learning how to communicate a history of tradition and symbols and finding meaningful ways to globally transfer information. Although challenging, Jasmine has made it her mission to create these connections while consistently making luxury products through storytelling. Additionally, visibly promoting diversity with model selection is an important facet of cultural sustainability.
The future of VOZ is embodied in their new store (296 Elizabeth Street) in New York City. “Having our own sanctuary hear is great to involve people and have open conversations. I dream of having artists show their work here, panels of cultural leaders and activists and to open up our brand to the community and re-personalize the people wearing and experiencing our clothes to the people making it. Bring unique artwork pieces to the public. Continuing to respect the artisan and their process" Voz exists between the tension of art and fashion; merging sacred stories that embody ceremonial purposes, with a cut and paste fashion industry. Each garment is changing the narrative of fashion.