VerverWerks: The Story of the First Bag

After falling in love with Colombia & staying months longer than I anticipated, my friend Monika & I packed our bags & took off for a month in Peru - a great experience I’ll certainly blog about in the future. For now, I’m eager to delve a bit more into the country that is the heart & soul of VerverWerks - Ecuador - and to tell the story of how the first VerverWerks bag came to be.

 Beautiful canyons just outside of Quito.

Beautiful canyons just outside of Quito.

My first taste of Ecuador came during a business trip with my dad. Just landing at the Quito airport is a treat in itself - rugged Andean peaks & impressive canyons lend the surrounding area a grandeur that makes everything else seem insignificant. Equally impressive are the newly- & expertly-constructed highways that were literally carved through mountain passes & seem completely out of place. [Interestingly, when you start talking with locals about these types of projects (largely financed by China), the deep-seated political tensions that grip Ecuador are quickly revealed. More related to this & the social motivation for launching VerverWerks below...]

I spent my first weeks in Ecuador bouncing around Quito & the mountainous region, exploring beautiful lagoons, visiting Galápagos, & heading south to Ambato & the charming city of Cuenca. The general impression these travels left me with was that Ecuadorians are an enterprising people with a deep connection to their roots. In remote villages, men, women & children don traditional clothing (bowler hats, ponchos, beautifully-embroidered tops & colorful skirts, for example) & celebrate their culture on a daily basis. Annual festivals (such as Inti Raymi - the Festival of the Sun) are of extreme importance & bring with them practices that are sometimes shocking to Westerners, but simply viewed as part of life by those that partake. 

 The celebration of Inti Raymi.

The celebration of Inti Raymi.

 Old Quito.

Old Quito.

It’s in these traditions & practices that I find extreme beauty (perhaps because, growing up, my dad always brought me little souvenirs from his travels that I connected deeply with). Witnessing firsthand the wealth of handicrafts in Ecuador & how such artisanal expertise is passed down from generation to generation was very special for me. I knew immediately I wanted to design a bag I could carry with me daily once I returned home that would reflect my own experience in South America & how beautiful a time it was. Resolved to do this, I dreamt up a Messenger bag design & went exploring. I scoured almacenes for textiles that struck a chord with me & sought out a skilled artisan willing to take on a special project. Little did we know that this one project would turn into something much larger & more meaningful than originally envisioned.

 Traditional Ecuadorian textiles.

Traditional Ecuadorian textiles.

After waiting nearly a month for my bag to be produced, I was ecstatic upon picking it up - it was even more beautiful than I had envisioned it would be! In the meantime, I had become even more familiar with the political & economic climate in Ecuador.  Ecuador boasts many artisans with terrific skill but a lack of work, for a multitude of reasons, & many struggle to make ends meet. Realizing the potential for a meaningful partnership with my contacts, I set out to develop additional renditions of our original Messenger, with slight design modifications (for example, we made the straps on our new bags interchangeable so they could be worn in any setting - casual or professional).

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Designing more bags brought contact with numerous additional Ecuadorian families with small businesses (who produce everything from woven textiles, to fabric, to leather) who we continue to work with today. Developing these types of relationships in itself was rewarding & brought a cultural proximity I had longed for during my earlier South American travels. The potential to make a meaningful difference in the lives of my contacts through an entrepreneurial endeavor was even more exciting.

 "Market research."

"Market research."

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In the end, the ten new Messenger renditions we created became our “first-generation” bags & were gifted to friends of mine whom they were named after - Jordan, Crystan, Charlene, Calina, Aleksandra, Rico, Selena, Chelsea & Vanda. We utilized product feedback on these bags to improve our designs - for example, we enhanced the quality of our leather, added specific compartments, changed the composition of our woven straps to achieve higher quality & even developed a smaller style of Messenger (our 13” computer bag) for those who wanted something more petite. This was just the start of the process to continually adjust & improve based on user & customer feedback - a process currently facilitated in Ecuador by our quality-control personnel.

 The first shipment of bags to leave Quito.

The first shipment of bags to leave Quito.

These efforts have culminated in VerverWerks as it exists today - an enterprise with the mission to provide authentic & versatile statement pieces that resonate with people on a personal level & to provide enhanced economic opportunity to our Ecuadorian partners in so doing. We’re so thankful to our fun & loyal customers who have allowed us to sustain & support our partners for nearly an entire year now.

As we grow, we promise to continue incorporating your ideas to deliver a unique & functional product you’re proud to own! If there's anything you're looking for or a product you would like to see in the future, we welcome your engagement - please comment here or send us an email!

 Designing & brainstorming for the VerverWerks line.

Designing & brainstorming for the VerverWerks line.

 First-generation VerverWerks bags photographed on the streets of Quito.

First-generation VerverWerks bags photographed on the streets of Quito.

Caroline VerverComment