Bolivian export fabrics that triumph over disability: Illa Magic

Alejandra Pau reports for Pagina Siete:

Bolivian export fabrics that triumph over disability

The company Illa Magic, owned by Humberto Aruquipa, exported to Europe fabrics made by people with disabilities.

Screen Shot 2014-11-24 at 7.55.03 AMTo Margarita Mamani, her weavings fill her with satisfaction, they go to European countries she knows only by the pictures in magazines. The development of the garments is done at home in El Alto, there she does the knitting in a machine and makes the designs of the brand Illa Magic sitting in her wheelchair.

Illa Magic is a company that for three years has dedicated to producing garments made from alpaca tissues. The brand currently exports to Denmark, Austria, France and Finland.

Aruquipa works with ten workshops that produce garments, three of them belong to people with physical disabilities.

Screen Shot 2014-11-24 at 8.20.45 AMAbout six years ago Aruquipa, had given training on the development of garments in weaving machines. I’ve never worked with people in wheelchairs and was not sure of the result.

“Of the ten people, three of them stayed in what became Illa Magic. I realized that not only were able to do a thorough job, but they were the most responsible and dedicated” mentions Aruquipa.

This 40 year old entrepreneur, born in Caranavi, has been working since he was 15 years old, in textile workshops, when he left school to work for a living. He then worked with Bolivian and foreign designers, until he decided to have his own business producing quality export alpaca wool garments.

After a trip he took to Europe and opened a store in a gallery at Sagarnaga Street, he began to receive orders from Bolivia and abroad. He is responsible for making the designs and is currently preparing the launch of the first collection of Illa Magic.

Two or three times a month carries the fine alpaca wool at three workshops with the disabled and receives the weavings. The three workshops have a production capacity of 100 garments per month.

Screen Shot 2014-11-24 at 7.59.16 AM Aruquipa understood that one of the main problems affecting people in wheelchairs is moving around, especially in El Alto, where there are no ramps and accesses to circulate safely. That is why he takes to their homes the work material.

Fabrics with meaning

Screen Shot 2014-11-24 at 8.48.39 AMJulio Lazo is 44 years, with a simplicity that is reflected in his voice, that in his life he had several jobs, one of which was to be a miner.

“In Larecaja mine, from which we extracted gold, this accident happened to me, rocks have fallen on my vertebral column in 2006,” he says.

He was taken to a hospital in El Alto, had surgery and spent nearly a year there,  his life stopped. Upon leaving the hospital wanted to be independent as when he walked, but after several falls in the street with the wheelchair realized that nothing was the same, to be sad seemed a natural state.

The situation changed when he decided to play basketball with others like him in wheelchairs; a friend told him he could learn machine weaving, while training met Aruquipa, who taught him to knit.

Today he works with three knitting machines with her daughter Lourdes, who has joined him in the weaving trade. He says he is happy, at least-and unlike others in his situation could find an occupation that can help him feed his family.

From his window, where he sees his home while working in the weaving machine, tells about his dreams of “a better future” which even include his legs, those who can no longer use.

In exchange, he has his hands that everyday makes a new garment. Which, like all others, will arrive to several places and latitudes … In his representation.

A garment … a story

Screen Shot 2014-11-24 at 8.48.59 AMMargarita Mamani is 48 years old, she fell and her vertebral column hit on a stone when she was very young. She remembers it was very difficult to accept her situation, she spent years in bed and that caused her wounds to became infected and caused excruciating pain.

Since then, she woven by hand to pay for medical expenses. “I could not sit, I had an ulcer. I remember facedown weaving, for ladies, out of necessity,” she says.

She also attended the training made by Aruquipa, who later gave her work in Illa Magic. Mamani was widowed five years ago, now lives alone in El Alto and thanks to the weavings that she makes with her machine, she sustains herself.

At the workshops,  the families of disabled people help with the clothes, although is not the case for Mamani. Depending on the size of the garment, each person earns an average of 80 bolivianos, although it depends on the difficulty of the fabric and design.

“This work makes me feel I can fend for myself to survive, I feel productive. In this society we discriminate much, there are situations that hurt a lot.”

When sees the finished fabric and given the uncertainty of where it will be able to get through by the person using it, feels happy.

These “situations” that are painful and happen when she leaves her house vanish for a few minutes and give way to satisfaction looking at her face. That, which she says, only gives independence and work.

Textiles and details

Shop Illa Magic. Shop is located in the Dorian Gallery – Michel Building, Local #3, on the Sagarnaga street corner with Murillo.

Web. Currently Humberto Aruquipa, owner of Illa Magic, is completing its brand page. Website

Workers. Between 60 and 70 people work for Illa Magic.

Fiber. The fiber that is used to weave is Bolivian, machine spun. The brand also has a partner who spins by hand, a craft that the owner of Illa Magic, Humberto Aruquipa, considers to be endangered.

My respect and admiration to those people that overcome their disabilities, despite the harshness that society imposes on to them!

I welcome Illa Magic to The Hall of Bolivian Fame!

Published by Bolivian Thoughts

Senior managerial experience on sustainable development projects.

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