Mexico is a big, beautiful and diverse country with a rich history. Many humans don’t realise quite how large Mexico is, so let me put it in perspective. Since my humans come from the UK, about fifteen Englands would fit into Mexico comfortably.
While Spanish is the national human language, over sixty eight different indigenous languages are also spoken. I am multilingual. I speak dog, English, and Spanish. Within every region, state and community of Mexico there are specific traditions, some of which have histories that go back thousands of years.
In the Yucatan peninsula, there have been many efforts to keep these traditions alive and none, less so than for the beautiful clothing worn by Yucatec Mestizos. One of the young fashion designers who is working not only to preserve this part of her culture, but to ensure that the artisans who are skilled in this craft have the opportunity to make a living doing so, is Mariana Flores Avila.
Mariana has always had a passion for her Mexican culture, fashion and animals. Little did she know, when she branded her first fashion line ‘Kalai’, named after her first dog and one of the loves of her life, that eventually she would be producing something unique and wonderful and uniting those three passions.
Mariana designs, and with the help of local artisans, creates traditionally made items for dogs just like me. When she launched Kalai in 2013, she did so with the intention of preserving and advancing the legends, imagery and artisanal crafts of the Yucatec people. Initially, she produced a line of clothing and handbags, inspired by the incredible ancient Maya archeological site known as Chichenitza, and embroidered by artisans using pedal machines in the village of Tekit.
In 2017, with the help and support of her Aunt Elvira, Kalai launched their first line for dogs. According to Mariana “For Kalai they are not just dogs, they are part of our family and granting them a regional garment of excellent quality, is something that reaffirms this feeling, since they also have the right to proudly wear a typical costume and in this way we help more people to know the huipil, the guayabera and the Yucatan terno and we encourage their preservation.”
The huipil, terno and guayabera are all items of clothing worn traditionally in the state of Yucatan but, more specifically in the Yucatan peninsula. If you visit this part of Mexico, you will see women and men wearing these intricately made and beautiful outfits. The huipil and terno are worn by women with the huipil being for every day wear and the terno for celebrations. The guayabera is a shirt worn by men. As Mariana puts it “The beauty of traditional garments is that they unite us as a society, as it does not matter to which social class each Yucatecan belongs, they will have at least one of these garments has in their wardrobes; and it is of great pride to wear them.”
There is no doubt at all that the outfits that Kalai makes for dogs are incredible, but they also produce some absolutely stunning collars. Each collar takes up to three days to create as the designs are first hand painted and then taken to the artisan to be embroidered. Mariana stresses that they do not use leather as she is committed to animal welfare and does not wish to use animal products.
Mariana is delighted that her work, promoting her culture through creating these exclusive and exquisite products for dogs, is capturing the imaginations of people around the world. Her products are so extraordinary that they would make perfect gifts for the dogs or dog lovers in your life.
You can find out more about Kalai in the following places: