Clara & Germán García Antonio, Oaxaca City, Oaxaca
The shoes made by the García family of San Dionisio Ocotepec, Oaxaca, reached Israel in 2013 and 2015, where their collective named Ndavaa arrived to satisfy hundreds of clients that recognize the high-quality and originality of their products. Thanks to the constant work and support of their clients, they have gained recognition and received a special aware for their success 2011 by the President of the Republic, and were invited to present their work in Israel. Clara will tell you that their greatest achievement is that they are a great family that continues to grow and create opportunities.
Clara García and her husband, Germán, started making sandals almost 40 years ago. The Ndavaa (my sandal in Zapotec) collective was created in 2006, and since then, it has become a source of employment for more than 20 families, from the eight regions of Oaxaca, comprised of women for the most part. In Ndavaa, they are indigenous women who lead the project and who firmly believe that opportunities can help women's growth and empowerment.
Clara remembers that after finishing basic education, there weren’t many work opportunities for her and her husband. “In the beginning, we sold materials to tan (leather) such as salt, bleach, and firewood. Back then in Jalatlaco, in the city of Oaxaca, there were many tanners,” she said.
The García family sold 50-60 tons of materials to tan leather per year, and supplied the municipalities near the city; nevertheless, the use of vinyl caused the closing of tanneries and the family business collapsed. In 1983, after their last order, the couple had 40 tons of materials. They decided to tan the leather and become the only family in town who made sandals. It took approximately three years to learn how to tan and make shoes. The profits were barely enough to pay the bills and recover the money they invested in materials and tools. Later, they stood out in the sale and making of typical sandals used by farmers and their products were sold in other towns.
But in 1994, when the Mexican peso depreciated, the economic crisis struck artisans and many abandoned their trades and migrated. The García’s company that employed over 15 artisans, was left with three employees. Germán was assigned a position in their municipality, but it was unpaid, and they had to take care of their young children, so there was no time for business and the sales decreased. Germán even considered migrating to the U.S., but he didn’t have enough money.
In her free time, Clara and her daughter began experimenting with shoe-making. Their first alternative design was one made with painted seeds. In just one day, three pairs of the same design were sold to a fashion designer who encouraged them to keep on creating. They decided to reactivate and innovate in the market, so Clara and her daughters created Ndavaa, a brand that became a synonym for originality.
After using seeds to decorate the sandals, the women thought they could incorporate other materials that represented Oaxaca; they decided to do it by using textiles. They started with leather tanning using organic plant material, with ancestral techniques. At the same time, they embroider and spin cotton or wool to be made into cloth — it takes between 7 days to 3 weeks to make one length of linen.
Ndavaa directly employs 16 families to collaborate in the production process. They cut, embroider, and sew the pieces. It also collaborates with 35 other families, who work as artisans in other regions of Oaxaca producing textiles, shawls and other pieces that are used to make the sandals.
“The majority of us are women. We try to get in touch with the producers through collaboration agreements that look to respect the production prices and emphasize the natural processes. We are Mexicans committed to our traditions and people, and for this reason, we work under fair trade and in a sustainable manner with the environment,” relates Clara.
Thanks to these efforts, each pair of shoes is unique, as all of them are made by hand. Currently, the produce 1200 pairs of shoes every month. Ndavaa doesn’t only make sandals; they also make sneakers, boots, heels and purses: all of them are made by hand with artisanal techniques, and not only that, they are made with biodegradable materials.
Benito Juárez #9
San Dionisio Ocotepec, Oaxaca
Taller: Primera Privada de Niño