If, like us, you love fruits, colourful beads and a great business backstory, we think you’re gonna enjoy our interview with the socially sustainable brand Pura Utz. Pura Utz is a Copenhagen-based jewellery brand that employs Guatemalan women to make their beaded creations. The results of this not only sees some gorgeous products, but talented craftswomen are given steady employment in an otherwise poverty stricken community. We were lucky enough to chat to Anna Andres, the owner and founder of Pura Utz, to find out more about the brand, her personal connection with Guatemala and Pura Utz’s impact on it’s community.
Deriving from Spanish and Quiché (local dialect), Pura Utz translates to ‘Pure Good’, ‘Amazing’. Not only are the products that are preduced by Pura Utz a reflection of this translation, but also the story behind the company. Anna explained to us how the business began and where the inspiration came from.
‘I feel like it has so many beginnings and twists and turns this journey. I visited Guatemala for the first time when I was a child and then continued to travel to the country to work and live when I got older. It was on one of these trips as a volunteer that I came to the realisation that the volunteer work I was doing was probably more for me than for the women involved. All the projects and knowledge that I wanted to share was more my own idealistic need than an actually need with the women I worked with. Once I left for my country it didn’t make sense in their everyday life. I started to learn about women’s rights and what it means to make your own money, open a bank account, owning a piece of land and so on. I realised that all of these fundamental things that come before making good decisions in your life is about the lack of access to these resources. So with this new insight I realised that the women needed to make money in their own hands that they could freely distribute and use as they want. They are brilliant and resilient entrepreneurs in their own lives and knows very well how they wish to invest in their futures. So that was that – I wanted to create a project that would generate money for the women and a do-good business was the only way for me.’
Working to order, and with handwoven pieces, Pura Utz is also using their business to promote a more sustainable future. They explain that their business is ‘socially sustainable’. Being socially sustainable means that businesses take into account what their workers need in life as well as the business itself. Anna explained a little bit more about why this is so important for Pura Utz.
‘If your business is social sustainable in its essence, I think its really just about if you create social value while being a for profit business at the same time. For us its the people involved thats our main focus – using the market and production as a way of creating an access to resources and financial prosperity.
On a practical level for us, it means that we pay the women in our team four times the salary that artisans are usually paid in Guatemala. Our team earns the same as educated nurses and teachers in Guatemala, and we are super proud of this. Other than the payment in itself its about creating a safe and beautiful space where they feel appreciated and acknowledged – both financially but also mentally.’
Pura Utz’s message is an incredibly pure one. Not only does the brand want to empower the women that wear their work, they want to empower the women making it. Set out with a dream of bringing steady employment to women living in poverty has meant that the growing company have now employed over 50 workers. Each woman weaves beads by hand to produce the stunning pouches, jewellery and clothing that we have come to love. So we wanted to know what brought Anna to Guatemala and what made her feel connected to its inhabitants?
‘My mom brought us til Guatemala for the first time when I was child. I don’t know why I feel so connected to it other than the obvious reasons that it’s a beautiful and unique country and culture. All my travels and work there has just meant that I have gotten in so deep with the country and all the amazing people I know there. It’s really just that. That I am so involved there and love the people I work with. I am often pondering why and how I got myself into this whole business and how complicated it has also made things. But there is no turning back now because I have committed fully to Bernabela and our dream together.’
Picking a favourite piece from Pura Utz’s ever growing collection is an incredibly hard task. So you can imagine that for the owner, picking a favourite is near enough impossible. From lobster earrings made from glass beads to bead embroidered sweater vests, Pura Utz really does have something for everyone.
‘Well it changes all the time. I wear the jewellery every single day, so maybe I can add the category as a favourite? Jewellery in general.. It’s just a great way of having fun with your outfit every day.’
While the pieces are made by the craftswomen of Guatemala, Anna herself comes from Denmark. Somewhat paralleling minimalist Scandi designs, Pura Utz’s bright and colourful nature makes it entirely unique. So we wanted to know if there are any danish qualities that went into Pura Utz’s designs.
‘Scandinavian design is very simplistic – a word I don’t think a lot of people would use to describe Pura Utz. We are so colorful and playful to the verge of childish. But of course I do style and communicate the brand in Scandic-Fashion way I guess.’
While Pura Utz holds fun, bright and beautiful designs in it’s heart, providing women in poverty with a stable income is in fact why it started at all. While many fast fashion brands continue to under pay their staff horrendously, brands like Pura Utz are taking it upon themselves to put their workers at the forefront of the business. So we asked Anna how she thinks the business has impacted the community in which Pura Utz works.
‘I can’t answer on a general level because I think that implies us having a way larger impact than we actually do. I can only speak for the women in our team. Its such a complex business we have gotten ourselves into where some of the same structures that we are trying to defy are being constantly upheld at the same time. We want to go beyond fair-trade in order for the women to make lots of money from their work, but then at the same time we sell to retailers and customers on the premisses of a capitalistic structure. And this is not easily solved and I don’t always know if we are doing it the right way you know. This is the hardest thing for me to try to navigate and the large picture of what we are doing.
But when we focus on what’s on the plate in front of us, it’s the women in our team – Julía, Rebekha, Chonita, Ester and so on. And that makes soooo much sense, because they are happy, they are prosperous and living better with their families. That’s what it’s really about in the day to day work we do. Poverty is also a very political word and the women in our team are not poor, they are so entrepreneurial and strong – the ‘poverty’ that they face is the lack of access to resources and the unjust chasms in the world.’
Finally, we wanted to know what we have to look forward to from the ever growing brand. Anna informed us that their dream is to carry on creating both jewellery and opportunities for employees. We cannot wait to see this wholesome brand continue to grow.
‘Bernabela and I are working hard to succeed with our dream of creating the most beautiful production place in Guatemala. We want to grow so that we can build a place that can produce high quality artisan goods in an environment that allows everyone to benefit from this. A place that gives us the opportunity to open more funnels of income for our team and more job opportunities. A lot of the women in our team actually do have degrees and study but there are no jobs. We are not in business to have them sit for the rest of their lives doing beadwork (unless it’s what they want to do). It’s more like a stepping stone to move on and progress – just like Bernabela did in her life. She lifted herself out of a childhood of poverty through her unstoppable believe in herself and work. Now her daughter (Elisa) studies at the University as the first one ever in their family. That’s what she has in her heart to pass on to the women in our team every single day.’