Breaking the Cycle

Lula Mena’s five business principles
For the fourth time, Lula Mena will be attending NY NOW’s Artisan Resource at New York City’s Jacob Javit’s Center from August 20-23. We spoke with founder and designer Lula Mena about her five business principles that guide her company. Below is our interview.
HAND/EYE Magazine: What’s your guiding philosophy behind your company? 
Lula Mena: I love my country, but we currently have a lot of issues That is exactly why I thought of my five principles and started my company. (women empowerment, eco-friendly, handmade, fair-trade, innovation) There are a lot of people that just migrate from the country because of the situation and we need people to stay and try to make it better! I love it here and I don’t imagine myself anywhere else. I decided to use my talent as a designer to create a sustainable business while helping people.
I believe that you shouldn’t just give money to help, but rather create opportunities so people can have a way to earn their money with dignity, while at the same time acquiring skills. I empower them, so they can be independent, and have the ability to make decisions in their homes. There is a machismo attitude here in El Salvador and all Latin America and I wanted to break that cycle so that was another thing that inspired me. I stopped being a passive person for the issue and started being active. I believe that no matter how small the thing you do is, if it is made with love it will flourish and good things will multiply.
H/E: Who are your artisans? Is it primarily women who work for you?
LM: I focus on the empowerment of women so the artisans are mainly women. I work with one community who are men, which is where I have my master artisan and his family. As new projects are developed, new communities are added and these are women. These women are trained and are provided with the materials so they can learn how to do jewelry and weaving. Once they are trained, they begin developing my designs and this is how they have a secure job with Lula Mena. Before, they were mainly housewives and now they earn three times more than the average in the fields of El Salvador. A lot of them have become the primary provider in their household and now have the opportunity to give education to their kids.
H/E: Please tell us about your current collections.
LM: The Copper Collection came from a partnership with the energy company DelSur, which donated over 60,000 uninstalled energy meters. I decided to re-purpose this material and added to create contemporary designs while at the same time aiding the environment. I included the copper in my jewelry and textiles, all made by the communities.
Waves of Hope consists of taking new designs that are being elaborated in two-framed looms by our new community of women in La Libertad, El Salvador and project Waves of Hope. Everything is hand-woven and it is a place that gives us a lot of cultural identity.
One of my current collections is the Wonder Woman collection, in which Warner Bros asked Latin American women to design pieces based on wonder, power and courage for the movie’s premiere. I designed three bracelets, each based on the following attributes: 
The internal ability to transform, create and shine from the inside, illuminating the exterior. Bracelets are made of leather, stones, crystals and copper wires.
The power to combine subtle actions with strong feelings; And thus the subtle power to change the world with small and beautiful daily actions. Bracelets are made with reused tire tube inner.
Thread by thread, we interweave experiences that form a strong bond. We interweave people, feelings and events that cross our paths. The sum of these intertwined experiences give us our inner strength. Bracelet are hand-woven; made with reused copper strands of energy meters.
I design everything and then a prototype is created here at Lula Mena. I make the changes needed, and then these products are ready to be sent to the communities for the women to produce them exactly as the prototype. Everything is hand-made.
H/E: What will you be exhibiting at Artisan Resource?
LM: I am still deciding what I will be taking, but I will for sure be taking a lot of textiles mainly. I want to showcase my new designs with the new community from a project called Waves of Hope. I will be taking copper articles too, and some jewelry. There are some tentative products too.
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