Meet Ana Catalina Rojas de Merkel  Designer, owner & creative director of Ponchos Rojas

We had the good fortune of connecting with Ana Catalina Rojas de Merkel and we’ve shared our conversation below.

Hi Ana Catalina, is your business focused on helping the community? If so, how?
The goal of Ponchos Rojas is to help small weaving communities of Bolivia, to preserve and continue the art of weaving where the vast majority of knowledge and techniques are in the minds of the older generations.

We are working right now with 4 different communities in Bolivia, and with artisans in el Alto and in La Paz. We are producing beautiful products with them and we are strong believers of fair-trade practices, helping them preserve weaving techniques that have been passed down through generations, and also have an economic impact in their communities.

We also create pieces by upcycling textiles and give them a ‘second life’.

We want to create a long term impact in the communities in which we operate, so we have set up a Non-Profit (Ponchos Libres ) where a % of our sales will go towards that. Our goal is to be able to build a physical place where the women from the communities can gather and work together, bring their children and have it be a safe environment for them.

What should our readers know about your business?
Ponchos Rojas is a design and fashion brand dedicated to the preservation of weaving traditions in the high Andes. The textiles of the Bolivian Andes have an unbroken chain of craft for thousands of years and are now in danger of being lost forever with the push for modernization. The love for nature, family and a passion to know where we come from has led us to travel throughout Bolivia, see and appreciate the beautiful natural environments, experience the local customs, and learn from the fascinating history this area has.
By upcycling vintage pieces and working with Bolivian communities to create new works, founders Ana Catalina Rojas de Merkel and Greg Merkel hope to create a broad appeal market worldwide and drive a new economy for Bolivian textiles.

We started our company in 2016 and were selling only vintage textiles, but we felt that that wasn’t enough and we needed to give back in some way as the art of weaving is sadly in decline, as younger generations from weaving communities move to larger cities for better opportunities and the art of weaving is then not passed on.

We have been able to meet the talented artisans that we work with now by travelling around Bolivia to visit various communities and also thanks to friend’s suggestions that have helped us along the way . Of course all this took time and dedication, but being from Bolivia and understanding the culture helped with communicating with the communities.

I think the most important lesson is that everything takes a bit longer than you would expect, and being patient is key for the product to come out the way you want it to. We live in a world where you can get anything delivered the next day, so understanding the process of creating a sustainable and ethically made product takes time.

Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
Being in NY there are so many places to go, but here are a few of our favorite spots (Pre-Covid!):

-Natural History Museum in the morning, have a lunch picnic in Central Park, and then make our way to the Guggenheim Museum

-Met museum and then make our way downtown to the Flatiron District, to grab a bite at Eataly

-The Bronx Botanical gardens

-China Town, go eat Dim Sum at Pings and have your Aura photo taken at Magic Jewelry on Canal Street.

-For sure take a stroll through the highline and then make your way to Brooklyn for sunset and drinks at Lemon’s at the Wythe Hotel and dinner at Diner

– After an early beach /surf morning at the Rockaways we would head for a Saturday lunch at Totonno’s, in Coney Island that has been serving delicious pizza since 1924, and then head to Coney Island boardwalk.

-Take a bike ride to Red Hook, get a nice ( small view 🙂 of the Statue of Liberty from Pier 44 Waterfront Garden and have lunch at Brooklyn Crab and grab desert at Ample Hills Creamery Redhook Factory. Make our way to Gowanus and have dinner , drinks and good music at Public Records.

The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
Greg Merkel- Designer, owner & creative director of Ponchos Rojas Claudia Torrico -Board of Directors of Ponchos Rojas & Ponchos Libres
David Perez -Project Coordinator of Ponchos Rojas


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