Ethical accessories (and clothing) are all the rage. I mean, who wouldn’t want to look great and also know that you’re doing good by the environment and the people who made it? That’s exactly what Shilango Jewelry does.
A few weeks ago I attended Latin American Fashion Week here in Toronto. After spotting some gorgeous jewelry on the models, I was on a mission to find out who it was by. It was, of course, Shilango. I was intrigued by the unique pieces that I didn’t see from other designers in the room.
As I browsed the pieces after the show, I got to talking with Shilango‘s husband and wife duo Benjamin and Paola Silk. We exchanged business cards, snapped a quick photo and then talk of an interview was put into the works.
A couple of weeks later we met for coffee at Starbucks in Liberty Village. Paola and I immediately got to talking about fashion while Benjamin entertained their son Logan – they’re a family business and like to include him as much as possible.
Why are ethical accessories so important?
One thing I really love about Shilango is their environmentally conscious approach to the fashion industry. With so many stories about unfair labour and toxic fabrics, it’s refreshing to see a small business trying to change that.
“All of [our designers] are based in the central area of Mexico. We are paying them a fair price for their talent. Which means that we pay them upfront, 100% the cost of their jewelry, and then we sell it to whomever we can,” says Paola. “It’s ethically traded and ethically sourced and ethically made. We take all the responsibility financially and so at the end of the day they win, we win. Plus, I get a little profit but [I also] offer an awesome and unique product.”
One cool thing about Shilango Jewelry – other than the name which is a Mayan word meaning “people from the central area of Mexico” – is that it has minimal impact on the environment. It’s something that is meant to be handed down through generations, but if it ends up in a landfill it’s not the end of the world because of the natural products used in a lot of their jewelry – orange peel, coffee beans, coconut shell. Another thing they are trying to avoid is mass production and want to make the experience of buying Shilango more exclusive.
“What we offer to the consumer is that you’re not only buying a beautiful, [limited edition] piece but you’re also making a conscious purchase,” Paola says.
Paola and Benjamin only officially launched Shilango in September of this year and have already added Latin American Fashion Week to their list of accomplishments. Paola describes the event as “a dream come true” and says they are more than thankful to have had this opportunity so early on.
“[It was] a really great experience and the connections we made, you know, through the networking opportunities at the show – we got to meet you! We are very grateful to everyone at Latin American Fashion Week who allowed us to be a part of this amazing event.”
But they’re not stopping there. Paola says they are hoping to expand outside of the online world and are looking for “strategic retailers that align with [the] core values of the brand”. They’re also hoping that one day Shilango can help provide jobs for fashionable individuals in this up coming generation.
“I think there is a lot of need for them to put their skills into practice. We just have to do it one step at a time and when we get there, that’s our vision,” she says. “We definitely want to employ people and get some interns to help us and to help them at the same time.”
So besides the gorgeous jewelry they’ve sourced in the central area of Mexico, why there? Why not somewhere more popular like Cancun or Riviera Maya? Well, it’s all about getting that unique product. Because the central area of Mexico is still untouched by tourists and relatively any non-Mexicans at all, you’re getting a product that’s totally unseen before in Canada.
“I wanted to go back to my roots, which I’m very proud of, and put that personal signature into my brand,” says Paola. “I hand pick every single piece in my collection. [But] just my personal culture isn’t enough, I need to make sure that it’s going to be selling and that people are going to purchase it and that people are going to like it.”
If you’re looking for something unique, environmentally friendly and gorgeous to wear this season, I strongly suggest checking out Shilango Jewelry. Seriously, who wouldn’t want to look good and know that you’re helping to support local business here in Canada and support small town Mexican designers as well. Now there’s that Christmas spirit.