The traditional dress for Guatemalan women features the huipil, (pronounced wē-pēl). This intricately embroidered blouse is paired with a woven skirt, which is wrapped around the body and fastened with a woven sash called a faja (fah-hah). These garments combine weaving, dyeing, and needlework techniques that date back to Mayan culture. Huipil styles vary by region and village in Guatemala and act as an outward symbol of origin and identity.
Guatemalan textiles provide an enduring link to a rich cultural past. The weavers, mainly women, still derive natural dyes for their threads from vegetables and minerals. They still use the Mayan back-strap loom along with traditional spinning and embroidery techniques.
Guatemala is one of the few countries in the world where these ancient textile arts still thrive. With exceptional skill, these weavers preserve their cultural history while generating income for their families.
Lark works closely with Guatemalan artists to develop items that respectfully honor the authentic craft while providing pieces designed to fit the modern body and lifestyle.
Guatemala endured a 36-year civil war from 1960 to 1996, leaving behind a generation of widows. Using their traditional weaving skills and ingenuity, Guatemalan women formed weaving cooperatives as a means to help support their families. Larkin Lane sources many products from these cooperatives. “It’s women reaching out to women, now going on the third generation,” Lark says. “They teach organization and business skills and also help pass down the art.”
A seminal moment for Lark transpired while working with a grandmother-mother-daughter team. She noticed that although the grandmother and mother wore traditional Guatemalan dress, the granddaughter preferred jeans and a T-shirt. “A light came on and I asked myself, what if this is the last generation to make and wear these beautiful clothes? What is going to happen to these incredible traditions?”
Larkin Lane not only endeavors to share the beauty and rich heritage of Guatemalan textiles, but also to help sustain the artisans’ families and their ancient traditions. “I believe it’s important to help the next generation recognize the value in their traditional textiles,” Lark says.