Happy Mochila, the company bringing handmade Colombian designs to Philly
Happy Mochila was first inspired by an artisans event in Bogotá, Colombia. Today, the company operates in Philly. AL DÍA spoke with founder Luisa Alba to learn more.
Happy Mochila was created through a deep love for hand-crafted art and Colombian culture.
Founded by Luisa Alba, an art curator and appreciator, Happy Mochila represents a sincere appreciation of Colombian culture and art.
The company grew from Alba’s fascination with hand-crafted designs from Colombian artisans.
Through her travels between her native Colombia and Philadelphia, Alba picked up on Philly’s openness to the artwork of other cultures.
With a Philadelphia-based, multicultural audience in mind, Happy Mochila brought its products to Philly after being founded in 2019.
Happy Mochila carries an assortment of products from Colombian artisans. This includes pins, other accessories and jewelry such as bracelets and earrings. They also carry hammocks.
Most importantly, the company offers their signature mochilas, various bags and purses that may double as wallets.
“The mochilas are, pretty much, the identity of Colombia, culturally, and [in] ancestry,” Alba told AL DÍA. “The indigenous people handmade these bags. They pretty much put their heart and soul into each of their items.”
Each bag is designed with nature in mind, from the creation process to the materials used. Each item is also unique, from how it looks to the story behind them.
The pins are made by Bogotá-based company Bric Á Brac, while artisans like Olga Delgado design signature mochilas.
As explained by Alba herself, Mochilas are hand-crafted bags featuring patterns resembling “the flow of the dense [and] vast nature found in the rainforest of Colombia.”
Mochilas have become a symbol of sorts for Colombian identity, and are known as an accessory that carries the message of tradition and culture.
Happy Mochila embraces designs that utilize Caña Flecha in their construction.
Caña Flecha is a plant-based fabric commonly used to design purses, earrings, wallets, and Sombrero Vueltiao, making Happy Mochila a company with a conscious approach.
“[The artisans] really do an excellent job with how they treat the Caña Flecha,” said Alba. “From a plant… becomes a purse.”
One artisan who hand treats the Caña Flecha is Jose Ciprian, and works with his family to treat the material. Each artisan puts their heart into the creation process.
Happy Mochila was born from a shortcoming Alba observed among artisans operating in Colombia.
Not too long ago, Alba and her sister were in attendance at a once-a-year event in Bogotá, Colombia. Artisans from various cities were present to showcase their artwork and products.
At the event, Alba would meet many of the artisans who she works with today. In conversation, Alba learned of artisans’ obstacles they face in marketing their products.
These marketing obstacles often stem from limited resources, displacement, and illegal recruitment regarding ongoing armed conflicts.
The obstacles created from the coronavirus pandemic have also posed difficulties.
After hearing of the hardships artisans face, Alba launched Happy Mochila, and soon after would bring the artisan’s handmade designs and Colombian culture to Philly.
“We wanted to make that bridge of all the designs and all the artistic work in Bogotá,” said Alba. “I want to be the bridge from them to here.”
Through Alba’s company, artisans from Colombia are given a chance to offer their handmade design and products in the city.
Adopting Philadelphia as its home, Happy Mochila has also worked with members of the Philadelphia community.
Happy Mochila has collaborated with the Independence Visitor Center, producing two pins. One depicts Rocky Balboa while another showcases a rendition of the Love Park sign.
“We wanted to… show Bogotá, [and] some traditional symbols Philadelphia has, through a pin,” said Alba.
As Happy Mochila grows, the opportunities to work with Philly creators and businesses will only grow as well.
Happy Mochila operates through bilingual, English-Spanish communication, opening the door further for Philly’s multicultural residents.
Going forward, Happy Mochila doesn’t plan to stop here.
One idea Alba has is to open a coffee shop offering traditional Colombian coffee in addition to handmade designs from artisans.
“I had this amazing idea of opening a small coffee spot where you come in and you feel like you’re in Colombia: hammocks hanging, mochilas displayed, and also offering Colombian coffee,” said Alba.
“A mini Colombia where people can come, check out the products, have a taste of coffee… have a little trip to South America,” she continued.
Wherever the brand ends up, Alba and Happy Mochila collaborators have no plans of slowing down. To Alba, there is no limit.
To view Happy Mochila’s selection of hand-crafted products, visit here.