• Designer | Que Onda Vos

    “...QUE ONDA VOS is about respect. Since the beginning we've always worked with the artisans as partners, we will always have a dialogue and we will never try to interfere in their way of living or change their lifestyle.”

    Designer | Que Onda Vos

    Designer | Que Onda Vos

    Designer | Que Onda Vos

    Designer | Que Onda Vos

    Designer | Que Onda Vos

    Shop all handmade textiles from Que Onda Vos HERE
  • A Dialogue

    Hanne De Wyngaert.
    Founder of Que Onda Vos

    Hanne De Wyngaert woke up one morning with the need for a more meaningful existence, the desire to foster a better world of respect and equality. My Chameleon meets the Founder and Designer of Que Onda Vos, a design label from Belgium, based in the heart of Guatemala that aims to protect the indigenous communities from losing their heritage.

    • Tell us about yourself – where were you born and raised? Where are you living today?

      I was born & raised in a small town called Hasselt, in Belgium.  After high school, when I was 17, I decided I wanted to study fashion design because this was where all my passions came together.  I had been collecting lookbooks and  Vogue’s from an early age and I was obsessed with musicians like PJ Harvey.  I loved the work of Guy Bourdin and Diane Arbus and I felt I could combine all of these inspirations during my studies at the famous Fashion Academy of Antwerp.  It was a time of research, experiment, and growth in a creative sense.  After graduating in 2006, I got involved in different projects from curating exhibitions, photography for music bands to launching a clothing label that was fully made in Belgium. Following this, I started thinking more about designing and developing products that have a social impact on the community, so I moved in a different direction. I took a small break to visit a textile project in Guatemala and felt very strongly that this was where I was supposed to be and work in the future. Coming home from this trip, I moved to London for half a year where I worked as a stylist and started preparing my ‘ one-time project’ in Guatemala. This ‘ one-time project’ grew into a 6 year one and is still ongoing :) I currently move between living in Belgium and Guatemala. When In Guatemala I live in Xela, the second biggest city in Guatemala, although it feels more like a small village.  All the families and communities we work with are one or two hours away from Xela, so we're pretty central.  Most items are produced in Momostenango. Momos have an old tradition of artisans weaving wool textiles on the foot loom.  Other communities we work with are closer to the beautiful Lake Atitlan, they develop hand-spun cotton yarn that is woven on the backstrap loom into placemats, cushions, etc.

    • How did the idea for Que Onda Vos come about? What were the early days like?

      I woke up one day with this clear thought in my mind that I wanted to give more meaning to my work in a social way.  At first, I was thinking of going to India to look for a fair trade organisation to collaborate with until one of my friends told me she knew someone that was working in a textile program with weavers in Guatemala. After travelling there for a month I got a first peek into their culture and weaving traditions and I fell in love with their work.  Most of the women in Guatemala still wear traditional clothing, woven by hand on the backstrap or foot loom.  In each region, they use different techniques, different designs, and different colours. Each design has its own history and their stories are very inspiring. The beginning was as any start of a new project, a blanc paper with no clear expectations and a lot of excitement and curiosities. The hardest part came later, on how to translate it into a business model, trying to marry two cultures where the artisans are respected and the clients on the other end of the world receive quality products at the agreed delivery time.

    • What is the philosophy of the brand and how will you maintain this as the business grows?

      QUE ONDA VOS is about respect.  Since the beginning we've always worked with the artisans as partners, we will always have a dialogue and we will never try to interfere in their way of living or change their lifestyle.  They have their own talleres (workshops) and their own schedules and we will always try to find solutions together with them. It is important that respect comes from both sides. As we are growing we will have to take the next step to start training artisans in house. This will give us more freedom to experiment with designs and more stability in production. We try our best to help to protect the communities from losing their heritage and their income as well as preventing the Guatemalan sheep species from disappearing. We want to promote awareness through conscious consumption while creating fair wage jobs in indigenous communities in Guatemala.

    • Sustainability and ethical production are huge parts of the brand’s identity. Can you tell us about how a Que Onda Vos piece is made – how long does it take and what does the production process entail?

      All the wool comes from local sheep and is sold on the local market. One family will card the wool, spin and dye it by hand first.  Then the weavers will buy the wool in 'libras' directly from the family with whom they have close contact. It takes up to two days to thread the cotton yarn on a foot-loom, which will be used for around 10 woven pieces. The weaving of a small rug takes around 1 day, the large rugs take up to 3 days, depending on how complicated the design of the rug it can be faster or slower. The blankets need an extra day of work as they get felted by feet, dried and combed to make them soft. As our products are 100% handmade, they all have small unique differences in colour, size, and texture, and that’s exactly what we want to cherish and share as a treasure with our customers.

    • The brand has clearly had a positive impact on the local community. How do you think the community has benefited from your decision to start the brand there?

      ‘Luis’, one of the weavers we have been working with since the start, told me that the stability of always having work and income has made the biggest impact on their lives. Not having that daily hustle has given him a sense of peace. 10 years ago, their community went down from 120 to 20 weavers, people were burning their foot-looms. Now we see a new generation of weavers as the interest in their art is increasing again. We’re are proud to be part of this movement, and hope we can keep on making a positive impact.

    • What have been some of the biggest challenges and highlights during the QOV journey so far?

      It takes time to build a solid, trustworthy relationship with the artisans.  To begin with, I'm a foreigner with a totally different cultural background. I have a different way of living, thinking and working.  So communication is key to building this relationship, accepting what I'm not able to understand and of course following through with the promises I make to them.  As I've now been here for years, they know I'm serious with them and the project and that I'm not just passing through. But it still can be a daily struggle. 
 'Don't expect anything, appreciate everything’ Since every day brings new challenges and nothing ever goes to plan because everything is made by hand, because of our different mentalities, because we have to face the challenges of working in a third world country… this is my way I can make it work.

    • What inspires your designs? How do you work with the artisans to bring these to life?

      The designs are a reflection of my lifestyle, living and constantly moving between different cultures and realities.  I get inspired by their art, architecture, and nature and try to create a quiet space in my designs while balancing these extremes. My minimalist style combined with indigenous weaving artistry inspires unique patterning and contrasting compositions. They are also a result of the dialogue, cooperation, and interaction between these cultures.  I design a product, the weavers make their interpretation, and I will answer again to their interpretation and so on until we have an imperfect, perfect final result. 

    • What is your personal approach to dressing?

      Stylewise; I love comfort and femininity — raw and edgy but still fine and pure.  Cotton, wool and silk textiles are my favourites and I avoid polyesters only if they’re recycled. I don’t buy a lot of clothes but I do invest in designer pieces that I can wear long term and that I appreciate for their design and techniques.  Different textures are definitely my weakness.

    • Do you have any role models in life?

      As I travel a lot, live in different countries, I get to know people with different backgrounds, from all ages, from all parts of the world.  They are my friends, they are my role models. Observing them and listening to them makes me grow as a person on a daily basis. I’m truly lucky to be surrounded by so many amazing people.

    • What are you currently reading, watching and listening to?

      I’m reading Sapiens from Yuval Noah Harari and Mythos by Stephen Frey Watching the las season of The handmaids’ tale and listening to Psychedelic cumbia.

    • Are there any words of wisdom you live by?

      Life isn’t as serious as the mind makes it out to be = Eckart Tolle.

    • What can we expect to see next from Que Onda Vos?

      Besides textiles and our recycled glassware collection, we’re starting to develop our first ceramics! and we just opened up our first flagship store in Antigua Guatemala! very excited to see where we go from here