Bead by Bead

Belta Designs Saves Women's Lives

Everything started as a dream, a thought, and a mental image which evolved into a worthwhile project. 

Marush and Gaby, two young and talented fashion designers from Guatemala dreamt of doing something meaningful that would impact the lives of impoverished Guatemalan women. They wanted to empower female workers by employing them to use traditional skills to craft beautiful fashion items designed by them. 

Their strong socially conscious mindset was the steam-engine behind conceptualizing  Belta Design, a company that offers intricately-designed beaded belts and other beautiful beaded items, handcrafted by women working in cooperatives in rural Guatemala.   

Guatemala has the world’s third highest rate of femicide, only behind El Salvador and Jamaica. The primary cause leading to femicide is pervasive poverty, so helping Guatemalan women to become financially independent is vital to break the cycle of violence. That’s why these two local designers play a pivotal role in their country’s future by bringing job opportunities to the women, which, in turn opens up new and better opportunities for them and their families. 

The celebration of ancient Maya culture is at Belta Designs’ heart. The brand fuses contemporary design with traditional Mayan beading techniques to create distinctive accessories. As well as its own collection of belts, the brand offers lines of hair ornaments, headbands and camera straps as well as any other beaded items, which can be made to order. All items are designed in Guatemala City. The designs are then sent to the women of Santiago, Atitlán, working in collectives, who make the items. Belta works with Sharing the Dream, a non-profit organization that promotes fair trade with cooperatives and small businesses in Guatemala. Sharing the Dream works to create sustainable markets for the collectives, ensuring that low income artisans receive fair wages and employment opportunities. 

As Belta Designs co-founder, Marush, points out: “The items are ideal for ethical fashion lovers who want accessories that don’t just look attractive, but also reflect their values. That includes finding accessories that aren't made in a sweatshop but rather by people who were paid fairly”. 

The hand-embroidering beads technique employed by Belta consists of placing glass beads, in a needle and sewing them one-by-one to a special paper that has the design printed on it. Marush comments: “It’s a meticulous work where each artisan dedicates a whole week to make a single belt. We are part of the slow and sustainable fashion movement that aims at preserving ancient beading techniques as well as offering higher quality products worth holding onto.”

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