Labels we Love: ETNICO
Throughout time, interior design trends have been used as aesthetic in our attempts to find some sort of inner peace, blanace, energy flow, and tranquility. It’s no wonder that this season invokes a collective fondness for using earth-tone colors and geometric patterns in order to mimic the harmony of nature and designs which have the ability to create an energy. ETNICO founder, Esteban Ibarra, has done just that, creating a sensational decor line which not only allows the senses to drive a space, but has “an approach to design which strives to represent the spirit and story of the makers and their environment, and a deep appreciation for something to keep and inherit. Creating products that exhibit a refreshing blend of ancient techniques, natural and noble materials, and skillful artistry.”
Most of ETNICO’s collections are the original design of the native communities themselves such as the Chakana Cross collection, and some are created by our small team inspired by the simple lines and natural geometric shapes so well represented in the Andean culture. Always honoring and preserving the tradition and genuine Andean product, never altering the textile, or attempting to replicate it. It’s no wonder ETNICO has become a celebrity and designer favorite and home decor must-have.
How would you describe the line in 3 words?
Timeless (organic design), Heirloom (quality), One-of-a-kind (noble, natural, and sustainably sourced materials)
What inspired you to create the line?
The cultural and technical richness of the Andean culture and a drive to connect two complementary worlds. We are inspired by people and time. Bringing forth luxurious yet stunningly simple products paying great attention to detail while utilizing crisp natural fabrics. Our style resides at the intersection of ancient tradition, technique, and design.
What makes your products so unique and innovative?
That’s a great question. Generally, we think of innovation as moving forward and pushing new, unknown frontiers. In the case of ETNICO, innovation is looking back to search for cultural and artistic value that may have been lost or forgotten along the way in modern life.
ETNICO is a social enterprise focused on collaborating with highly skilled artisans following ancient techniques in the Andean region of South America, to promote and preserve artistic traditions. Connecting talented local artists and their culture with the global community.
At ETNICO, we believe that utilizing sustainable and socially responsible practices is great innovation. Treating everyone involved with respect, always improving standards of living while preserving grassroot traditions.
Can you tell us more about how ETNICO is a social enterprise collaborating with ancient weavers in the South Andes mountains?
We trade directly with the artisans, (without any middleman) so the profits go directly to them, their families, and their small communities. In addition to supporting our artisans with the artistic work, ETNICO addresses community needs through a simple model of reinvesting profits into community-based projects and social initiatives that are self-identified and determined by the communities we work with. These projects address a wide range of environmental, health, social and economic issues. Including gender equality/parity, trade and craftsmanship workshops, and language and critical literacy programs while celebrating and promoting local tradition. Currently we work with 23 artisans at full time capacity across the entire South Central Andean Region covering all product lines. Most importantly, in 2022 we fulfilled our goal to help preserve this ancient art by reallocating more than $35,000 directly into artisans’ communities in all 3 countries.
How did this collaboration originate?
ETNICO came about in 2021 during the COVID 19 pandemic as a way to help artisans get back to some kind of normalcy. Most countries in Latin America had a long quarantine. In the case of Argentina there was a very strict quarantine for 18 months forcing people to stay home and therefore not able to earn their living. With this context Juan Martin, who is my partner (and brother in-law) and has been trading ancient textiles for more than two decades, called me in May 2021 to see if I could help with a small purchase to get some artisans working. My obvious answer was Yes BUT, also got me thinking: what’s going to happen next month and the one after that? I thought this could be just the beginning.
I have always been involved in the technology industry. Starting as a technician apprentice in my college student days, to my most recent position as Sr. Vice President at a multinational company. At the time of the call in May, with a pandemic that didn’t seem to slow down ETNICO not only seemed impossible but also, after a 25-year career, it was a most needed change for me personally.
With this challenging context and the will to provide a helping hand we started with the local design community in 2021, finally making our launch to market in February of last year.
Why is this of such great importance?
Simply put we are helping people – on one end helping the artisans expose their beautiful hidden, and in many cases dangerously forgotten art and on the other a complex, fast paced and fascinating modern world in search for hidden treasures with a story. The communities of artisans are so remote and “untouched” by modern life that they are completely off the grid (hundreds of kilometers from the closest highway). With no electric power (or cellular reception) the artisans work the yarn and loom outside of their homes taking advantage of daylight hours. On the other hand, we have a community of people that truly appreciate art and are always in search of new products with a powerful and meaningful story.
ETNICO is the bridge connecting these two complementary worlds.
Where do you draw your inspiration from when designing the pieces?
From everything I can get my hands on (utilizing every available sense in my body). Life is a beautiful thing, exploring it with mindfulness is how I try to do my work, not only with ETNICO but also in my personal life – with my family, friends and the environment in general. Using nature as the basis for design while also being rooted in function – that is with a purpose. Everything in nature has a purpose and its shape is established by function, as a result bringing forth its beauty and complexity. To me a harmonious design brings balance between the natural and manmade worlds.
What are your ultimate Spring season Must-Haves from the line?
Personally, I don’t have one piece of our line that I don’t truly love so for this spring I would highlight our new line of virgin llama wool pillows, all completely handcrafted with undyed organic fabric. I also particularly love our line of rugs with a new Chakana cross collection bringing warm neutrals and natural accents, completely organic. And finally, always must have a natural throw handy for the spring evenings. Our collection of throws is made of organic virgin llama wool, utilizing long, super-fine gauge fibers woven into an extremely soft finished product. Perfect for wrapping around the body or layering under a coat.
Any upcoming product launches you can tell us about?
As we dive deeper into the Andean culture, we are constantly uncovering wonderful new designs and products used by these communities for thousands of years. We are working on three new lines of pillows; new area rugs and bedding lines redefining the concept of organic design. Expecting to complete pre-production and launch them by April.