With roots in both California and Colombia, Mar Y Lana (Sea & Wool) works in collaboration with traditional artisans of Colombia while giving back to the artisan community. Their goal is to provide customers with a connection to their belongings while enabling them to participate in philanthropy and the slow-fashion movement. Find out more about how owner Johanna started her company and what inspired the creation of her artisan brand.
Tell us about yourself and what inspired you to start your own business.
Mar Y Lana began when my son was a toddler and started wearing a family heirloom poncho. As we played around our little town of Cardiff by the Sea, he was showered with compliments. I asked a family member to find artisans in Colombia who were weaving ponchos. My intuition knew that I needed to go straight to the source as I was curious about the people who were making these gorgeous textiles. Sure enough, the history of these artisans was rich with culture, heart, and need. Watching the artisans in action was fascinating.
I quickly learned that the community had gone through some major changes in recent years. The global market and “fast fashion” has severely impacted the artisan’s livelihood. Where there were once 60+ men weaving in the safety of their homes, there now exist very few. Weavers have turned to working in the coal mines where the money is fast, but the consequences are harsh and devastating. It was clear that this artisan community was on the verge of extinction and I wanted to help out in any way possible. My goal has always been to help the artisans by providing them a market here in the United States and we also have always had a giveback component that has had several iterations.
What makes your brand stand apart from others?
It is truly slow-fashion, in the sense that it is handmade and made to last. At first glance, one can immediately see and feel the unparallelled quality and love what goes into each piece. Our customers have a direct line to the artisan and know that they are supporting a time-honored practice. Those who are part of the Mar Y Lana family love knowing that their purchase is supporting a fair living wage and keeping a tradition alive.
Where do you find inspiration for new products?
I find inspiration in the traditional designs of Colombia mixed with my lifestyle of the beach here in Southern California. I spend the majority of my free time surfing and you will always find me wrapped in one of my designs.
Share your proudest moment as a small business-owner.
My proudest moment was this past Thanksgiving when I spent a few days with my artisan partners and was able to give food donations to members of our artisan community. I also donated new sewing machines and made new memories with the community. I can't wait to visit again soon.
What have you learned most about yourself through the process of building a brand?
I never considered myself a creative, nor did I ever imagine or want to be an entrepreneur, but through this mission to help keep my family heritage alive, I've embraced my creativity and become a small business owner.
What advice would you offer to someone else looking to start their own business?
You will never be "prepared" enough to start. You just have to jump in and be ready to work hard and learn as you go. Don't quit your day job, you'll need to maintain your income so you can weather the rollercoaster ride of entrepreneurship.
How do you relax, refresh, and reinspire yourself?
My go-to activity is surfing. I am happiest when I am surfing consistently. I also love long walks, or hikes and playing my ukulele. My favorite way to reinspire myself is to get out in nature, but also by networking with other entrepreneurs. Being part of my female entrepreneur groups has been key in keeping me focused and inspired.
Why did the Z SUPPLY Marketplace feel like a good fit for you?
Z SUPPLY does such an amazing job of supporting local businesses and strives for sustainability. I love the clean and timeless aesthetic that Z SUPPLY embodies, which aligns with Mar Y Lana.
Shop Mar Y Lana and other Marketplace finds here.