When handbag designer Ana Alexandra Velazquez founded Kuero in her hometown of Managua, Nicaragua in 2005, she wanted to create a company whose purpose was two-fold. First, to help women worldwide feel beautiful inside and out. Second, to provide long-term job opportunities and a fair wage for young single mothers, women and at-risk men. Nicaragua is one of the least developed countries in the world and the second poorest in the Western Hemisphere, according to the World Bank.
Because of this, Velazquez determined that her company would be part of the solution. She structured her company in a way to help designers and team members reach their full potential. Velazquez said that anyone who purchases a handbag, shoes, accessories or any piece from the clothing line that is in development is helping people reach their dreams. Kuero's website makes this clear. Each team member is profiled and chronicles which dream he or she is striving towards. For example, seamstress Andrea Estella Ordonez Martinez wants to study English and computers in 2017 and own her own home.
Velazquez said, “As a designer, I feel blessed to have fashion, this vehicle, to change people’s lives.” She lives and works by that philosophy as she puts her team members’ needs before the process and the profits. Kuero offers psychological services and counseling and education seminars every week. (A psychologist is even on staff as a team member.) The company helps employees finish high school if they haven’t, study any career path and pursue their dreams. "We encourage growth for the whole person and help nurture their emotional intelligence and spiritual lives,” Velazquez said. “When a person’s needs are met, our handmade goods have a higher quality and there’s better productivity.”
To that end, she provides sewing machines for some employees who need to work from home in order to keep an eye on their children. Velazquez provided an example of a husband and wife who work at her company. He comes into the office every day while his wife works for the company from their home so that she can be available for their children. Family and family values are very important to Velazquez, as she is married and has four children of her own.
Through ethical products we can change the world.-Ana Alexandra Velazquez Ana Alexandra Velazquez
Conscious Attention to Handbags and All Raw Materials is Key at Kuero
Conscious attention to every aspect of the creative process is at the foundation of Kuero. The company works with only local products. They use supple, organic leather from Nicaraguan free-range, hormone-free cows. Natural dyes and responsible dying processes are used in all of their leather products and in their new line of cotton, denim and hemp clothing. And this conscious attention has been rewarded. Kuero was a finalist in the New York Handbag Designer 101 Award, Best Socially Responsible Handbag in 2013. Velazquez herself was recognized with awards from her own country for Social Responsibility for Empowering Women and First Woman Exporting to International Markets. “Through ethical products we can change the world,” Velazquez said.
Velazquez's vision to keep changing lives includes mindful expansion of her company. Currently, Kuero has one manufacturing facility in Managua and one store. This month, they will open a second store in Granada. In May, Kuero will open a store at Augusto C. Sandino International Airport. In September, they will open in Leon. In 2017, the company will expand its distribution channels throughout the United States, Central and South America and in Europe. But this growth will be balanced by the company’s commitment to “slow fashion” and to making each thing they sell by hand. This is part of the passion that keeps Velazquez and Kuero going.
All items are available on their website.