Photo by Marina Lnakina

a sustainability story

with La Roja By Misha

an interview with Michelle Townson

interviewed by Pangea Kali Virga

 

july.3.2020

Michelle Townson is the founder of La Roja By Misha, an accessories brand dedicated to fair labor practices, recycled materials, and natural dyes.

Each bag is an opportunity for employment, a new life for old household plastics, and the preservation of the practice of natural dying. Recycled plastic from source material like laundry detergent bottles is saved from eventual landfill or ocean pollution and transformed into colorful artisanal handbags with hand-carved handles, hand-beaded details, and hand-dyed tassels. Individuals with disabilities are provided jobs and training in traditional artisnal techniques, directly supporting families with economic stability and generating community wealth. The natural dyes that are used for each La Roja By Misha product create brilliant colors and takes a stand against toxic chemical dyes that dominate the fashion industry for a more naturalistic holistic approach, saving waterways the world over from water pollution.

Keep reading to learn more about Michelle's efforts towards creating a new standard in sustainable fashion in a harmonious multi-pronged approach.

get to know michelle

 

fair labor, natural dyes, recycled materials

in stylish accessories

how would you describe your brand, la roja by misha?

A socially responsible uniquely sustainable brand that gives new life to plastic, we empower women exposed to vulnerable situations to express their talent in a comfortable and secure space. We care deeply for our oceans and we strive to share the message of conscious consumption.

​​

what inspired you to make sustainable accessories?

The ocean is one of my biggest passions, when I learned how our fashion, my second passion was affecting it, I was in shock. I had to do something, I decided to use my passion for fashion and the talent of Guatemalan artisans. The recycled plastic has been in our country for a few years now with the traditional basic tote. I approached
a community and decided to create new designs and new styles that can really give new life to discarded plastic products.

How do you incorporate sustainability in your designs?

We definitely give new life to an old product, in our case, Plastic. “Most of our thread is the result of recycling PET or single-use plastic bottles. They arrive at the recycling plant, they are then cleaned, pulverized into little crystals that are exposed to very high temperatures (which is excellent because any old bacteria is killed), then they are dyed, and the last process is as simple as making pasta. A simple machine gives the final width and strength of the thread we use in our designs. We transport the thread by land for almost 8 days to our shop in San Pedro Las Huertas, Antigua Guatemala, where each design is carefully executed. Our patterns are unique and are made with attention to the highest quality.

why do you think sustainability is so important?

 

We only have one planet and we have become a consumption-based society with immense amount of waste, it is not an option to keep just throwing things away. Almost every material can be re-used and re-built into something else.

can you tell us about the process behind making one of your handbag styles?

The process of each design is unique, each of our patterns are sometimes created in the moment. Once we receive the thread we make a drawing of the design. The artisans start to weave into the wood base structure. Some design takes a lot of concentration because we have to count each thread in order for the pattern to take its shape, depending on the difficulty of the pattern one artisan can take up to 2 days weaving a bag. Also because as a designer I come in and check if I want to add something  (last minute ideas) details or maybe just another one or two threads of different colors to make it different. After it's finished, the wood structure frame of the bag is removed and it  retains its final shape, another artisan must come in to weave the handle or to sew the liner or to put in the wood handle that was made by another carpenter artisan. So the interesting detail of our bags is that we are giving at least 5 or 6 job opportunities per piece.

 

what are some of the things you are most proud of with la roja by misha?

 

Definitely my artisans, they have such an amazing attitude and never have they ever said NO to any of my ideas. We have achieved designs that no one has dared to make with plastic and I constantly keep raising the bar for quality and unique design. Even at this different time we kept working and creating because we know people need products that are good for them, easy to clean and wear-resistant. Our oceans are being polluted with more plastic from masks and gloves than ever so we feel that our work is very important. So we are here.

Why do you think fair labor is such an integral part of the sustainable fashion movement?


The most beautiful products come from the artistic part in each piece, the details and the love that gives value to this product. We also need to acknowledge that the livelihood of many people depend on these jobs. To value where and how our products are made is a blessing for others and we must be together in this cause. We need to honor their talent and understand that sustainable fashion does not mean, expensive, it means an opportunity for our planet, for our home.

Where can people find your accessories for purchase?

At the present time we working on our web page so you can get our products on our social media Instagram, Facebook, and Pinterest: @la_roja_by_misha

 

What do you think is the future of sustainability for the industry?

The future is today, this pandemic has taught us so much, but must of all to appreciate life, nature and that we need products that are good for us, so I think people will be more aware of what they buy. I believe they will appreciate detail, quality and specially the purpose behind each item so I think it is becoming the new normal to buy with a sustainable mindset.

What would you recommend to people who are looking to be more sustainable in their day to day life?


My recommendation is to start simple, paying attention to how much plastic you consume each day. It’s incredible! If
people would take the time to see how much waste they produce each day, this awareness will make an impact in their
minds and for sure they would like to make a difference. Also, when you are going to buy something please, ask
yourselves, Where and how is this product made? So many lives are at risk and with one responsible purchase we are
changing probably more that one kids future. Remember #togetherwedomore

THE AUTHORS

Michelle Townson is a designer, owner of La Roja By Misha, and sustainability advocate. You can find out more about Michelle and her brand on Instagram @La_Roja_By_Misha and Facebook

Pangea Kali Virga is Executive Producer and co-Founder of Miami On Sight and is a full time fashion designer, stylist, creative director, and producer. She is dedicated to radical sustainability, veganism, and social justice. You can learn more about Pangea at www.pangeakalivirga.com and on Instagram @pangeakalivirga.

Miami On Sight is a fiscally sponsored project of the Center for Social Change, a 501c3 non-profit organization.

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