When a product passes through the hands of a true artisan, it retains a piece of their story. That’s the case for Christian Louboutin’s Treasure Totes, a series of handbags that embrace the traditional skills of crafts people from around the world. Launched last year with the Africaba tote, which was created with the help of embroiderers from Senegal, the collection of handmade totes serves to support the communities where they’re created. The newest bag in the collection, the Mexicaba—a carry-all that features panels of eye-popping handwoven cotton, vivid embroidery and traditional hand-painted beads—is no exception.

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Designer Christian Louboutin is all smiles after working with artisans in the Yucatan to complete the Mexicaba bag.

“You only need to visit my house to know I really love the diversity of Mexican design,” Louboutin tells us of the decision to look south of the border for the inspiration behind the stunning Mexicaba tote. “The heritage is so rich, from the indigenous people to the arrival of the Spanish to the mélange when these come together. I love the embroideries, the colors, the pagan motifs of wild animals that are a little naïve, and all the images of death—taken in such a light way that it isn’t scary anymore. I love the lining of the Mexicaba, because the Day of the Dead motifs have turned into happy ghosts, keeping an eye on your stuff!”

Drawing from these traditional themes, Louboutin worked to realize the design by partnering with Taller Maya, part of the Fundación Haciendas del Mundo Maya, a non-profit organization dedicated to working with Mayan communities throughout the Yucatan Peninsula to preserve their native craft skills as a means of ensuring economic self-sufficiency.

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Traditional skills like weaving are being preserved in the Yucatan, both by embracing the knowledge of local weavers who still practice the artform and by teaching the technique to a new generation.
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Louboutin takes a closer look at the variety of patterns and colors being produced by Mayan weavers, selecting which to pair together to create the vibrant style of the Mexicaba bag.
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Once fabrics have been selected, traditional local motifs and the signature Louboutin logo are hand embroidered on the side panels.

The artisans of Taller Maya—predominantly but not exclusively women—gather together as they work, further strengthening the sense of community the organization seeks to foster. Some have inherited traditional techniques, while others are learning the skills of their grandmothers and great-grandmothers for the very first time. Crafts like weaving and cross-stitch embroidery mean that these women are not forced to migrate to tourist destinations to seek work. For the men involved, the learned craftsmanship offers an alternative to the construction industry, which would often mean leaving their families behind. Both family life and cultural heritage are able to flourish in the supported communities; the more so because each bag created represents earnings for each of the artisans who has worked on its creation.

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A Mayan carver works to individually shape each of the charms that serve as a finishing detail on the bag.
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Each charm is then hand painted in vibrant hues that mirror those of the bag’s multiple fabrics.

“Even beyond the economic impact and positive social impact on more than a hundred families, what everyone loves about this project is the special energy,” says Maria-Carola Diez, Director of Fundación Haciendas del Mundo Maya. “Working with the Louboutin team has opened our minds to new possibilities.”

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“The artisans have seen what they are truly capable of. Meeting tight deadlines at a high standard has been a huge boost to confidence,” says Benedetta Quaratessi, Commercial Social Projects Coordinator for Taller Maya. “Everyone is happy and committed.”

Made of traditionally woven fabrics, each Mexicaba bag is entirely unique thanks to the personal hand stitching applied by each of the artisans who embroiders local motifs onto the fabric panels. Once this labor-intensive process is done, the bag’s finishing is completed in a process that links craftspeople from around the world—beadwork is done by Louboutin’s long-time partners in India, leatherwork is completed in Italy, and finishing touches are provided in Paris. Each bag is accompanied by a small charm made by the same Senegalese women who worked on the Africaba tote—a touch that ensures they continue to have a steady income and that brings the story of the collection full circle.

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The finished bag embodies Mayan culture, but also nods to other artisanal crafts from around the world.

“I’ve always had a global outlook,” Louboutin says. “Working with the most wonderful artisans from all over the world is completely natural for me. But most of all, I love what links these Treasure Totes: the satisfaction that they give to the artisans, in Yucatan, in Dakar, in Paris—everyone who worked on their creation.”

The Mexicaba Tote is currently available in-store at Barneys’ Madison Avenue Flagship. Not in New York? Keep your eyes peeled for the bag at a store near you soon, or if you simply MUST have it—and who could blame you?—please call Madison Avenue at 212.826.8900 to place your order.

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