Designer profile: Andrea Cabrera (Luna Bonita)

Luna Bonita

Andrea Cabrera, founder of Luna Bonita

Andrea Cabrera has many passions in life, but two of her key drivers are around slow fashion and artisan handcrafted one-of-a-kind pieces. Her Luna Bonita brand of handbags and accessories, handmade in Central America, provides a more conscious alternative to mass-produced items in a similar space.

Born and raised in Guatemala, Andrea admits to a lifelong fascination with artisan skills, particularly those of indigenous communities such as from her home country.

“Like folklore, their crafting knowledge is passed on from generation to generation, and every thread carries a story,” she says. “I’m so proud to play a small role in helping continue that tradition.”

Led by her adventurous spirit, Andrea moved to New Zealand in 2019 and says global changes of the past few years invited a time of reflection for her.

“Every day I’m more conscious of how our decisions have a significant impact on the life of others and that the power to make a positive difference in this world is in our hands.

“With that goal in mind, I started the journey of bringing Luna Bonita to life hoping to inspire people to shop ‘slow made’, while creating reliable income opportunities for small independent artisans. I bring a piece of my colourful Guatemalan heritage to beautiful New Zealand and hope others love it as much as I do.”

Each piece is thoughtfully handcrafted, featuring artisan skills and techniques

Luna Bonita specialises in one-of-a-kind bags featuring ancestral weaving techniques and leather craftsmanship. Andrea partners directly with artisans living in remote areas of Guatemala, most of them working in small home workshops.

“We aim to make a positive difference by being socially responsible and environmentally conscious. Not only are we offering opportunities to the community, but we are also celebrating the skills they have been handed down through the generations.

“My products are made in small batches in remote areas of the country and in limited amounts. We support non-factory working conditions and let our artisans set their own prices and working schedule.”

FashioNZ finds out more.

What inspired you to create Luna Bonita?

I wanted to play a role in celebrating uniqueness and authenticity through one-of-a-kind items while supporting artisans back in my home country. I also wanted to create a brand for everyone looking for alternatives to factory-made items and offer products that have a story behind them. All Luna Bonita bags and accessories are thoughtfully handcrafted in small batches by local artisans.

Some background info on your path before launching Luna Bonita?

When I was younger, I always looked up to my teachers, which is why I wanted to teach. In high school, I was captivated by science and math, so pursued a scientific career at the university. Currently, I enjoy the balance between the objectivity of science and the creativity I put into my brand. I actually have a background in science and have worked across FMCG companies in Guatemala, Germany, and now in New Zealand. I’ve been involved in a few sustainability projects throughout my different roles, and this is reflected in my business by always trying to make conscious decisions about ways of working, products and packaging materials.

What made you choose New Zealand as your new home?

I’ve always loved to travel and explore different cultures. I was particularly interested in New Zealand due to its landscape and nature so decided to pack my backpack and visit. I had a friend who was living here at the time (who turned out to be my future husband). It didn’t take long for me to fall in love with the country and its people.

Luna Bonita specialises in one-of-a-kind bags

What were some of the challenges in getting Luna Bonita up and running?

Starting the business was quite challenging, as international travel was restricted at the time so I couldn’t fly back to Guatemala. Through a lot of perseverance and research, I managed to get in contact with artisans with a lot of experience working with textiles and leather. We work in partnership and develop ideas together. It was a big learning curve. I grew up in a culture where no one would encourage you to start your own business, especially if you are a woman. People would think of a traditional business, with a physical store and lots of stock, but nowadays, the digital world gives entrepreneurs alternatives to start from scratch with little capital. And this is what I did.

Although I don’t have any formal training, I managed to successfully create what I envisioned with Luna Bonita and hope this can inspire other young entrepreneurs to take that step and start building their dream.

Why are you so passionate about this concept?

I love the fact that I can be a part, even a small part, of the fashion revolution that inspires consumers to shop slow-made, while also educating people on the importance of knowing how and where their items are made. At the same time, the brand is close to my heart because it’s my way to bring my colourful heritage to New Zealand, create income opportunities for small independent artisans, and keep preserving their weaving techniques.

Share some information about the textiles you use?

A lot of the textiles incorporated into my products are upcycled. In Guatemala, indigenous women weave and use traditional items of clothing that are filled with patterns, colours and symbolism that represents their cultural and spiritual identity. Each unique weaving pattern belongs to a specific town or region.

The part that I upcycled into my leather bags is the blouse, and it’s called a ‘huipil’ (pronounced wee-peel). Made of cotton, it can take up to four months just to complete one huipil. This is because they’re made using rudimental techniques such as a backstrap loom, an ancient method where the loom is tied to a pillar and around the waist of the artisan.

Luna Bonita

Vibrant colours and cultural influences are at the heart of the collection

Some information on the inspiration behind your designs?

The majority of my products are dedicated to preserving the original designs of the textiles and therefore have indigenous roots embedded in them. The patterns of the huipil are greatly influenced by the worldview of the creator’s ancestors – the Mayan civilisation.

Nature is also a great source of inspiration. For example, the zig-zag in some designs symbolises the volcanoes and mountains that surround the country. Elements of astrology and the presence of animals such as the eagle and hummingbird can also be seen across different textiles.

When it comes to bag design, I always think about functionality, including features such as adjustable straps, inner pockets, and different bag sizes for different occasions. I love hearing feedback from consumers and am always happy to incorporate their ideas into a bag design.

Why are you passionate about slow fashion?

To me, slow fashion is more personal; there is a deeper connection between the person who wears the item and the hands that made it. Slow fashion considers the impact of what we wear in regards to other people and the planet. It is a way of stopping and asking yourself if there is a way to make things better and still deliver high-quality items that are beloved by consumers.

Luna Bonita

The range features ancestral weaving techniques and leather craftsmanship

What were the first bags you designed?

Some of the first bags co-designed alongside my partner artisans were the Isabella, Maria, and Renee. They are all crossbody bags of different sizes, made of leather and upcycled textiles. The Maria bag is convertible so can be used as a clutch as well.

How has your collection evolved?

Most of the products in the initial collection are crossbody bags, with a distinctive central panel that showcases the textile, while the rest is made of leather. Geometrical patterns are the most predominant across the textiles we upcycled in these first items. They are paired with different leather colours, including black, brown, light tan, and grey.

Recently I added a new section of accessories, including embroidered straps, earrings, cardholders, and necklace bags. I love colourful items but my newer collection also features some classic designs with plain leather. I like the fact that people can have options – one day you might want to go with a bright colourful bag and another day, a neutral-coloured bag.

Luna Bonita

Home accessories are also a part of the Luna Bonita range

Share some info about your vegan range and how it came about?

I wanted to give consumers an alternative to buy leather-free goods. This part of the collection still maintains the essence of the brand by being handcrafted with traditional techniques. The items in this section are very vibrant, and I’ve tried to incorporate upcycled textiles where I could, for example, in the mini Luna coin pouch which is very popular.

Describe your own personal style?

For me, comfort is important when it comes to how I dress. I tend to wear what feels right to me, even when it’s not what’s ‘trending’ at that moment. What I like about fashion is that it’s a form of expression and there are no rules. I like the fact that you can project your personality through what you wear and elevate your outfit through accessories.

What is something people might be surprised to know about you?

People might be surprised to learn that I am an introverted person. I tend to be very outgoing on social media, but I am more reserved and quiet in real life. This brand has also been a way for me to put myself out there and do something new and challenging.

Images supplied