Fashion and social responsibility go hand-in-hand for up-and-coming designers like Marisa Collado from Mexico and Costa Rica's Jennifer Lang, who provide employment for the indigenous communities that produce their handbags that have won awards in New York.

"I've always had an interest in artisan crafts and a deep-down love of Mexican culture," said Collado, who on Wednesday walked off with the prize for social responsibility at the sixth edition of the Independent Handbag Designer Awards.

Collado entered a red leather handbag decorated with woven palm fronds made by Mixtec Indians in the mountains of the southern Mexican state of Oaxaca.

"This is not a personal achievement, but the work of many people, dreaming and working hard. They turn their dreams into reality, and keep on dreaming," Collado said upon receiving the award.

Jennifer Lang, whose handbag was voted the best by readers of In Style with 236,000 votes on her Web site, worked with a community of Boruca Indians in Costa Rica to create her next collection.

"It's a fairly needy community," she told Efe, and said that her collaboration with the Boruca women's association is "a way to help the community and add an interesting element to the collection."

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