Today I wanted to highlight Wasi Clothing, a Latinx Bolivian owned brand based in Los Angeles. Its owner, Vanessa Acosta is breaking down barriers in the fashion world, and making great strides for women of color, especially las Bolivianas! Vanessa launched Wasi in May of 2018, with a mission to incorporate Bolivian culture into ethically made fashionable pieces. Acosta says, “Every part of Wasi is intentional, from sourcing sustainable options to textiles, continuing into conscious packaging, and even representing Bolivian culture in a way that highlights an underrepresented community while also respecting the sacredness and magic of our Bolivian ancestors” (wasiclothing.com). Wasi and Vanessa also aim to empower women of color and allies to be the best version of themselves.
Wasi is the Quechua word for home. (Quechua is an indigenous dialect spoken in Bolivia and Peru!) She wanted to name her brand Wasi to make sure it felt like home to women of color and allies alike. To design many of her pieces, Vanessa uses traditionally indigenus textiles from Bolivia, much of which she brings back herself. Of course, prior to the pandemic she was able to travel and bring back the textiles and fabrics, specifically that of aguayo. She makes custom aguayo pieces and accessories. In fact, I own one of her aguayo scrunchies and her cute graphic tees! Introducing and involving Bolivian culture into mainstream fashion is a powerful way of shaking up the fashion world, and something I find very inspiring.
Vanessa (pictured below,) has been running this business as a one woman show since its start, acting as its primary designer, photographer, and boss! She says, “I represent one of the many small brown businesses that are educating the masses to stop supporting fast fashion and companies that appropriate cultures and start supporting brown businesses that hand make their own items ethically” (Acosta). Recently, Acosta shared how a large fast fashion company reached out to her to collaborate on a line, however she ultimately declined. Saying no was a rather easy decision for her, as she prides herself on being as ethical and sustainable as a fashion brand can be. Acosta sews and handmakes most of the pieces herself. Now that her brand is gaining more traction, she has hired a handful of Latinx sewers to help her out. Vanessa and Wasi are a fabulous example of reclaiming culture and infiltrating a largely capitalistic, Westernized fashion world! Many fast fashion companies only cater to a capitalistic society that hurts and discriminates against women around the world in various ways. For one, Wasi is continuing to grow as a size inclusive brand, and is made for people of all identities. More specifically, she continues to be a voice and brand that speaks up for all women and people of color.
Acosta not only continues to grow her business, but enjoys photography and including Bolivian culture in the rest of her work as well. She began a photography project called “Bolivianitas,” in which she interviews and photographs Bolivian-American women to tell their stories. She says, “The goal is to shed light on a country & culture of people in the Latinx community that are so often forgotten” (Acosta). One of the women interviewed was Stephanie Beatriz, a prominent actress who stars in NBC’s Brooklyn 99. (Stephanie’s portrait done by Vanessa is below.) This series is so important in telling the stories and narratives of Bolivian women that mix traditional indigenous culture with more modern experiences. The best part is that the series is conducted by a Bolivian woman for Bolivian women. Sometimes people misconstrue the experiences that Latinx women, especially Bolivian women have because of Westernized perspectives. However, people like Vanessa use their platform to dispel these narratives and share stories through the true lenses of these women.
When I found Vanessa and Wasi, I immediately messaged her and explained how refreshed and proud I was to see a Bolivian woman succeeding in her field. I have never seen a direct representation of Bolivian women in any form of media, so I am very happy that Vanessa continues to pursue her brand in such empowering ways. She says, “I’m making something out of myself and being unapologetic about what I stand for, what I represent, and what I create. With all that, I hope to represent other brown girls to do the same!” (Acosta). Andale, Vanessa!
Wasi Clothing website: https://wasiclothing.com/
Source used: https://blog.planoly.com/how-vanessa-is-paving-the-way-for-latinx-creatives-planoly