Elementos Argentinos: handwoven rugs and blankets from northern Argentina

elementos argentinos

If you are looking for beautiful, unique rugs and blankets, check out Elementos Argentinos, a boutique in the Palermo Viejo neighborhood of Buenos Aires founded by Fernando Bach and Pablo Mendivil. Each rug or blanket is handmade by weavers and craftsmen from the northern provinces of Argentina where people keep alive the old tradition of loom weaving. They also carry table runners and textiles.

I interviewed Fernando Bach to find out what inspired him to start this business and what advice he has for entrepreneurs who are looking to do the same.

Q: Who are these native weavers in the northern part of Argentina — can you give us a background about their culture?

A: In South America, prior to the arrival of the Spanish conquerors, the art of hand-spinning llama, alpaca and vicuña wool (sheep were introduced by Spain) and loom weaving was widespread. More than 500 years later, we find the craftsmanship still thriving. We work with a lot of Native South American weavers from a variety of ethnic groups: from Kollas and Aymaras in the northwest of Argentina to Wichis in the Northeast and a lot of “criollos” (persons of mixed descent). We try to mix their ancestral knowledge with more contemporary designs in order to create unique pieces.

Q: What inspired you to start Elementos Argentinos?

A: I am from Tucuman, in the northwest part of Argentina, and after living in Buenos Aires and even in the States for a few years, I went back to visit relatives and became friends with an amazing group of weavers who needed help in selling their incredible creative products in Buenos Aires, so I offered to help them out doing that. I ended up giving up my carrer as Hotel Manager for this really rewarding project.

Q: What is the most surprising thing you discovered while running this business?

A: I think the most surprising thing is how people react when we tell them how our products are made and the fact that they are made 100% by hand, and in certain cases, dyed with vegetables like onions, nut tree roots or yerba mate, a traditional sort of tea that Argentinians drink all the time. That is always the beginning of a very interesting conversation that can lead to suprising places that goes from global warming and politics to good places to eat in Buenos Aires or art.

Q: What advice would you give to small entrepreneurs in other countries who want to start similar businesses?

A: I would suggest that they learn as much as possible about the product: how is it made, techniques, ancestral knowledge. Also to keep costs as low as possible and to go step by step, but most of all, I’d suggest to respect the idiosyncrasies of each ethnic group you want to work with.

Q: What is your background?

A: I studied Social Communications and did post-graduate studies in Business Management, worked as Hotel Manager for several years and now run Elementos Argentinos. I am 40 years old.

Elementos Argentinos
Godoy Cruz 1720
Palermo Viejo
Buenos Aires, Argentina
+54 11 4832 6299
www.elementosargentinos.com.ar

About Esme Vos

Esme Vos is the founder of Shopplr, a site on fashion, beauty and design. Esme is the founder of Mapplr.com (travel guides and hotel reviews) and MuniWireless (WiFi networks).