In 1990, Levi Strauss & Co. shuttered one of its manufacturing plants on the south side of San Antonio. As the story goes, as it always goes in cases like this, production was moving overseas, and with it more than 1,100 jobs. You can make it here better and have it sooner to boot, but what's all that when the third world'll give it to you cheap and easy? Not making a statement, just stating the case.
In any event, these newly unemployed, predominantly female seamstresses organized themselves shortly thereafter into a cooperative of sorts: La Fuerza Unida, which exists to this day. Their scope: "empowerment for self-sufficiency, women's and labor rights, immigration, environmental issues and health education." That’s a full plate, and all at first world wages.
Now, I've espoused here before my affection for the hand-made guayaberas coming from Caroline Matthews and her Southtown studio, Dos Carolinas. In an ocean of Mexican wedding shirts you'd be able to recognize her handiwork, such is the level of craftsmanship. So a couple months ago, my brother and I were in for measurements when we noticed a heap of bags of cotton and linen fabric scraps, each destined for the garbage. Being the shameless optimist that I am, I asked if I could rummage through them to see what might be repurposed into… who knows what.
Caroline was kind enough to oblige, and what came of that is the first in a series of pocket squares and cocktail napkins, sewn by hand at Fuerza Unida. The cocktail napkins are pretty uniformly 5”x5”, and the handkerchiefs are around 10”x10”, some larger (to show), some smaller (to blow).
If you’re interested, comment with your email address or shoot me a note and we’ll figure something out. $20 for the squares, $24 for six coasters to hold your bourbon, and if there's enough demand we'll work on a more regular production schedule. We’ll also be donating a good portion of the proceeds back to the cooperative.