Naked Copenhagen

Pura Utz: Pure Love – Pure good

The world moves so fast these days, everything is now, soon, on the way, exclusive, yadda yadda yadda. Whether it’s media or fashion, we’re not used to taking things slow anymore, we’re not good at enjoying the process or the journey. And that’s what makes Pura Utz so special and important.

An empowerment project at its core, Pura Utz has its heart in both Guatemala and Copenhagen. Founded by friends Anna and Bernabela, Pura Utz works with female, Guatemalan artisans, to bring Mayan craft to the world. Specializing in fine beadwork that incorporates freshwater pearls, Sterling Silver, and gold, each piece from Pura Utz is immaculately crafted by hand at their studio in Santiago Atitlan. To get an idea of the time put into each piece; to make just one of their beaded pouches it takes two women, three working days, and 24'400 hand-placed glass bead. By bringing their craft to the world, Pura Utz is able to pay its artists three times the average salary, empowering their talented female artists to be financially independent.

To commemorate the launch of Pura Utz at NAKED Copenhagen – we sat down with co-founders Anna and Bernabela, as well as Elisa, Pura Utz’s Head of Production and Bernabela’s daughter to find out what powers this amazing team.

Naked Copenhagen
Naked Copenhagen

You refer to each other as soul mates, was that a connection you made when you first met, or something that grew with time?

Bernabela: Our connection grew after working together, Anna always had great ideas and in the moment of us working together we saw that I was like the missing piece to make them come to life. That's how we realized that we have so many things in common and that we dreamed of the same things and this just made everything work so much better.
Anna: It was definitely something that grew over time but there was an easiness to the way we related to each other, the way we worked together, and the fun we had doing it. The friendship quickly developed and we were so aligned with what we wanted to create and how we see the work we do as being an opportunity to support the Mayan artisans.

What are your visions for the future of Pura Utz?

Anna: We want to create the most beautiful production place to flip the stick of the value chain and make the place where our product is made the most beautiful one in the value chain. We imagine having a place by the lake where we can create beautiful unique handmade products that have a great social impact at the same time and expanding into growing more social projects such as schooling for girls and education for the women in our team.
Bernabela: My vision is to create more job opportunities for more young women in Santiago because it's really difficult to find a stable job and even more so to give them good working conditions, so really I just want to grow a bigger team of production for Pura Utz.
Naked Copenhagen
Naked Copenhagen

As entrepreneurial businesswomen – what drives you?

Bernabela: What drives and motivates me with Pura Utz, is the essence of being able to support better living conditions for the families in my community because I have felt and know how difficult it is to lack opportunities that allow you to have a better future.
Anna: The initial drive and motivation for starting on this journey was the belief that we could create financial opportunities for the Mayan women to grow, dream and invest in their futures. That proved to be way more difficult than we thought - this is still my main motivation but got combined over the years with a stubbornness of wanting to prove that it can be done (even though a lot of people and moments have inserted doubt) to create beautiful, fun and unique handmade products that can actually serve as a positive impact for the woman who made it.
Elisa: What motivates me is to be in a work environment that is transparent and happy, sharing moments with the entire team of artisans and knowing that all the things we have done in the past have given us results, we have surpassed many obstacles and despite everything we have achieve one more dream for Pura Utz and everyone who works here.

What has been your favorite moment during this journey?

Bernabela: I have many moments, but the most important is to have reached such large and surprising markets in countries I could have never imagined and to know that Pura Utz (us) is acknowledged in these places just fills my heart with joy.
Anna: For me, it was the first summer together in Bernabela’s house after we decided to co-found Pura Utz together six months earlier. We built our first bookcase, sorted our bead stock, worked late hours, ate lots of great food, and created some of our most special pieces together. We had the freedom to create the space of work in our energy and spirit and it was so special, it just felt like we were on the complete right path together. We also took our first group trip together where we invited our entire team and their families for a day trip and sleepover, this has since become a tradition for us once a year because we all love it so much. That feeling of being a close team for real is without a doubt my favorite moment on this journey.
Elisa: My favorite moment is when Pura Utz was featured in a VOGUE article, I would have never imagined it because I grew up watching fashion movies that mentioned VOGUE and I could have never in a million years imagined that one of their editors would write about our work.
Naked Copenhagen
Naked Copenhagen

You make your products with such care and love – is there a message you hope to impart with each piece?

Bernabela: We do it so that our product is acknowledged and recognized for its quality and value, so when people buy it they will know immediately that it is something made in "Pura Utz".
Anna: That handmade is special because it requires the talent, patience, and love of the maker every single time for it to turn out beautiful, I think that is so special and needs to be valued and recognized. We have lost touch with what it means to handmake things (we have lost touch with production processes in general) because everything is fast, on-demand, and replaceable for us with the market being saturated with news and trends available at low expenses.
Elisa: We want to make each piece special because the artisans really need so much time and patience to create something of quality, so we really want our clients to value what we do because each person involved goes out of their way to create it in the best way possible.

If you could define this amazing journey with one word, which would you choose?

Bernabela and Elisa: We define it as "PERSEVERANCE"
Anna: I would say exactly the same - perseverance. We have kept going and going, adjusting and refining our designs, visual aesthetics and ethics, and so on through everything that happens, hardships with the business, projects, and in the world around us, but also through the personal hardships that life throws at you at the same time.
Naked Copenhagen
Naked Copenhagen

As artists, what was your reaction to seeing your art and Mayan heritage celebrated in magazines around the world?

Bernabela: We feel very happy, surprised, and of course very proud of how far we have come together because when we started the brand our vision was simply to create a funnel of stable income for our team so seeing that Pura Utz grew and was recognized in various parts of the world, it fills our soul to know that there are people who value what we do and acknowledge all the effort we put into each bag, necklace, bracelet, and earring.
Elisa: I am very proud of everything we have achieved together, and I believe that when we are featured in magazines with a nice article about our brand it’s because we are doing things well and I am so happy because this helps us to be seen and heard by bigger brands/stores that might want to work and collaborate with Pura Utz in the future.

Where is your favorite place to find inspiration when creating your art?

Elisa and Bernabela: Our special place to inspire is (of course) our workshop in Santiago Atitlan, where we have an amazing view from our windows of the stunning volcanoes and we always work with lots of laughter and fun with our team, we don’t really ask for more than to continue doing this!!!

Special thanks to Bernabela, Elisa & Anna - Pura Utz
Words by Gregory Noonan