Gabriela Flores « we constantly try to rescue ancient techniques “!
photos DR KIRAH DESIGNS. Texte courtesy of UFFP toute reproduction interdite.
Discussing prizes with the women artisans
Selected from an applicant pool of over 1000 projects, the finalists for 2012 of the Cartier Woman Initiative Award come from 15 different countries. They all lead compagnies. UFFP met the laureate for Latin America, Gabriela Flores. Owner of Kirah Designs, a passionate and devoted business woman who believes in social entrepreneurship as well ethical handicrafts. UFFP President met her for a heart to heart discussion to exchange about her dreams, challenges and vision for rural and urban women artisans of her region.
Gabriela Flores is Bolivian but did her highshool in Venezuela. She considers herself a true south American, having lived in Argentina and Venezuela and being born Bolivian.
Hand carved cacaos
Ethical and ecofriendly decorative pieces is what Kirah Designs produce, while ensuring that local women artisans make a decent living out of what they create and produce. What more can we say when esthetics meets ethics, here is the story of a super encounter, a heart to heart talking with Gabriela Flores, laureate for Latin America.
A story by Fériel Berraies Guigny: President and editor UFFP :
Tell us about Kira Designs ? it’s a company that produces luxury home accessories. Kira is constantly searching for new talents in the basis of our pyramid. Artisans that are always unable to earn a decent living by their work. Most of the time they are in low paid jobs in order to survive !
Kira Designs gives them a real job opportunity? Indeed, we want to make art and handicrafts that are sustainable, so that our workers are able to live while being employed by us.
You use recycled material ? yes and behind the name Kirah a special message : Kira in reiki is the energy and ra is the king in our ancient history.
Can you define yourself as an ethical brand ? yes, we have key designers and collaborators in New York that understand trends of the world. But my main job is to interpretate those designs and combine them with the local identity that we have in the different communities we work with. We constantly try to save ancient techniques in what we produce. Even if our designs are contemporary we try to preserve those values.
The pieces you produce? Home accessories and decorative pieces and gifts. Our pieces are very functional : vases, baskets etc The pieces are one of a kind, we only use recycled material so we cannot repeat the same products.
Everything is hand made? Yes everything and we work in different materials: wood, we don’t cut trees, the big industries only use 40 % of the tree, the rest is disgarded. Kira Designs use that part left, that is coming from a certified forest. All the imperfections of the wood we take them and we use them.
The social and economic impact of Kira Designs is certainly very high? Absolutely we don’t want to work with people who already have opportunities, we’d rather spend time training with those who don’t !
So the profile of artisans you target? They usually have talent, skills so we don’t necessarly have to teach the skills, but on the other hand they don’t understand what the quality control is about. We try to form microentrepreneurs in the different communities we work with. We work with individuals in rural areas. We also work in urban cities, mainly women but it also depends of the material. We have wood, recycled glass, metal and textiles. Wood is a combination between women and men. Textile its mostly women, glass is also a combination of the two genders.
But you like working with women though more? Yes we train in a constant process, we wish to create a change of mentality as well. Women are very responsible once they get the opportunity, they take it and keep it forever !
So Kira Designs in a way contributes to latin American women empowerment ? yes at 100% because we empower social entrepreneurs and they are mostly women. They help a lot, they know the language of the community where they work with. They understand as well their cultural values. So what we do is empowering them so they can have their microenterprise. By doing so, we enable women to enter in the process of self employment. When women work and get paid for what they do, thanks to their skills, they give it back automatically. They educate their kids, send them to school, feed them in a healthier way. Men usually drink what they work, so it is then hard to see a result.
African and Latin American women in rural areas and artisans could share the same values of work? Definitely even if we have a different cultural background we share the same values! The methodology of Kira Designs has proved its efficiency from Bolivia to Peru, Colombia etc to the USA!
We know what the customers are looking for worldwide: a product that has a soul, a meaning, a quality from the inside as well as the outside.
What advice would you give to UNITED FASHION FOR PEACE readers and the sisters of the world, struggling to survive out of their skills ? it is important not to focus on the negative things, because we do struggle everyday in this World. But in order to change reality it is important to act, to improve things and try to make the best of what we do and who we are. Kira Designs is selling methodology to alleviate poverty, and we constantly show the pride of the women of the communities we work with. We show their pride, their will, we don’t focus on their harsh realities. Their skills is a moment of pleasure, when they create, their hands are dancing. And you can sense this feeling, when you acquire a Kirah product.
Tell us about your Cartier experience? Its’ been amazing, since we have received the letter of Cartier, choosing me to compete on this award. I’ve been working so hard to be in their standards.
thanks Gabriela Flores !
Choosing the right colors for textile material
A very happy Gabriela after receiving her CARTIER AWARD !