As a child, my sister and I were made to wear ethnic messenger bags to carry our school books. These were the bags we got as gifts from someone that had arrived from Ecuador.

They were hand woven with indigenous designs and in large lettering ECUADOR was written across the front. My parents thought they were great and fit the purpose. Not sure what purpose they were thinking of. We stood out at an age when all you want to do is blend in.

Today however, in a fast fashion world where everyone is blending in, I yearn to be different. This week, I was invited to a trunk show for Dutzi Design, a line of bags designed by Ariane Dutzi and handcrafted by Mayan men and women in the Yucatan region of Mexico.

This collection took me back to my childhood book bag, except it was chic and trendy. What makes this collection so special is that is that all the bags are designed of recycled burlap, white raphia and leather.

The classic messenger bags are made of burlap with leather handles, and the fashionable clutches have wooden handles and leather details. The crisp, white raphia bags have bold hand-woven cotton handles or leather straps.

Ariane’s story and cause are as unique as her designs. A former fashion editor in Paris and New York, she left the fashion world for the peace and quiet of Tulum, Mexico. Once there, she was enamored by the culture and the people.

Having always dreamed of having her own business and seeing a void in Tulum for a fashion line, she decided to start Dutzi. Her clientele are high-end fashionistas that really want to have a unique bag.

What started as fashion idea turned into a cause as she started hiring the indigenous people of Valladolid, Yucatan. Her mission is to empower these women by teaching them how to be entrepreneurs. They work from home and are paid per bag made.

Looking back at my school bag was kind of cool. It was light weight and fit all my books and it was colorful. Best of all, it was handmade and it did strike up a conversation or two. And I made a couple of friends along the way. The great thing about fashion is that it connects us in more ways than one.

Monica Diaz is a NYC fashion consultant, owner of MonicaDiazMode and the author of 7 Days To Style.

Follow Monica on Twitter @MonicaDiazMode

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