We walked up the stairs of an apartment building in La Paz, Bolivia and entered designer, Silvana Cosulich’s studio which doubled as her home. A manikin was dressed in an almost lacy looking alpaca sweater and on the coffee table beside her “look book” were beautifully crafted stained glass necklaces. Over the last eight years, Silvana has dedicated her life to style and to giving back to alpaca crafters in the La Paz region through her design workshops. While she has typically sells to boutiques in the La Paz area, her designs are also available in Colombia and Mexico.
How did you get started?
I’ve always loved drawing and painting. I studied art and design in Mexico and Colombia. I learned early on that selling art is difficult but when you can couple a piece of art or design with a product, you can make a living while creating something beautiful. That is why I started getting into alpaca fashion and jewelry. I have been creating my own designs since 2007.
Where does the inspiration for your designs come from?
At the end of the day, people want a unique product that tells a story. Through my designs, I am truly telling the story of La Paz and passing that story along to people outside of Bolivia.
Almost all of the materials I use are made and produced in Bolivia (the stained glass in her jewelry is from France) and much of the inspiration comes from Bolivian folklore and the colorful culture we have here.
How do you give back to alpaca artisans in Bolivia?
I teach workshops to alpaca artisans. I show them how to create a prototype that tells a story and then I teach them how to sell. I show them that their work is highly valued and to not sell their products for less than they are worth - which is a problem here in Bolivia. I am very proud of Bolivian artisans. They are doing incredible things!
What is a key piece of advice that you would give a fellow entrepreneur?
No matter your product or service, design is key. It has to tell your company’s story… or whatever other story you are trying to tell. Also, you must have a vision and a lot of perseverance to see it through.