Made in Akumal—a New Fashion Venture

by Mary Henderson

Akumal style is all about easy and breezy looks, which is why Ixchel Boutique jumped at the chance to represent a new line of dresses direct from Akumal Pueblo—that's right, Akumal Pueblo!

Approached several weeks ago with samples, I, as co-owner of Ixchel Boutique, recognized that the dress designs were not only comfortable but versatile enough to satisfy our trendy clientele, who will enjoy wearing something hip and cool here in Akumal, as well as in their home towns. But, the interesting part of this story is how this new line of dresses came to be.

Thirteen years ago Gloria Calderon, a long-time resident of Akumal, had a dream. It's taken some doing to get all of the pieces in place to turn her idea into reality. She is the founder and principal of the communitarian centers that teach local women to produce wonderful and wearable dresses that are classic and chic. A Spanish nonprofit (ONG Espanola) partnered up with Gloria to form "Ayuda a la Mujer Indígena" and "Transformar Educando."  Funds from this nonprofit and contributions from Riviera Maya hotels were instrumental in providing education and training along with state-of-the-art sewing machines.

These communitarian centers contain textile workshop schools that are headed by designer Cecilia Anasco. Six women from Akumal Pueblo and a few from Puerto Aventuras are presently participating. One woman does not complete a dress on her own; instead, two or three women may be contributing on each finished product. This is determined by what the design calls for and its degree of complexity. Presently, each woman spends 25 hours per week on normal production duties, and the output for all is 30–40 dresses weekly. As demand grows, the women are prepared to spend additional time at the textile workshop school.

The dresses are easy to wear and many serve double duty as a beach cover-up by day, and then as a fashion statement for a beautiful evening in Akumal. Designer Cecilia Anasco oversees the creation of the patterns for the dresses, and these are original. The designs do change to reflect fashion trends. Making new patterns is one of the things that the women enjoy most about this work. The fabrics are usually found locally in Playa del Carmen or Cancún; however, occasionally a "find" from Mexico City makes its way to the textile workshop schools. Although the women participating are not paid a salary, they do receive compensation for each dress sold.

Whereas boutiques are wonderful outlets for these dresses, they do contract other types of sewing projects, and these have included uniforms for spa hotels and hospitals. Additionally, they are producing a new line of handbags, and they have made various linens to spruce up bedroom décor.

One of the things that's a selling point to Ixchel Boutique’s customers is that custom-made feel. If a dress is too big or too small, the alteration can be done rather rapidly. Also, if you are hard to fit, your measurements can be taken to these women and a pattern for you will be designed.

Since 2007, in both Akumal Pueblo and Puerto Aventuras Poblado, the communitarian centers have operated out of classrooms in the primary schools. An additional feature of the communitarian centers is a free education proponent. Classes such as reading and writing are offered. A student can complete primary school and a six-year high school course as well. The study of English and French is available, but there is a nominal charge—only 25 pesos per week. So far, 119 students have benefited from these communitarian centers. If you would like to make a contribution to these centers, Gloria says you can receive a credit from Hacienda (in Mexico). You may contact her via e-mail or phone her at (984) 875-9234.

So, if you want to be an Akumal Fashionista, or just want to see and browse this new line of clothing, do stop in to Ixchel Boutique. Your purchases help these women directly, plus you get great dresses—and the cost won't break your bank! Ixchel Boutique is proud to be an outlet, and you will be too, as you realize what a unique opportunity this is for the Akumal Pueblo now and in future years. "Made in Akumal" has a nice ring, don’t you agree?