Gina Moyano and I first crossed paths six months ago. As I was gearing up for a balmy summer in Atlanta, she was beginning to dream up fresh handbag designs for her luxe collection of sustainable accessories, Chakanu, which she creates in collaboration with a selection of hand-picked artisans in her home country of Ecuador.
Through Chakanu Gina combines sustainability and ethical working conditions with modern, high-quality accoutrements. Chakanu is a labor of love born outside of working hours — Gina is a fellow brand manager with an affinity for sustainable practices, and, like me, she cares an awful lot about making things that are good for people and for our planet.
Scroll on for a little look into her mission, prefaced by a handful of my favorite ways to style her wearing everywhere, softer than a cumulonimbus cloud alpaca wool shawl, which is crafted by hand in Otavalo, Ecuador.
All wrapped up: The Poncho
Throw this one over a dress or silk tank for a night out.
- Start with your scarf fully open. Drape it equally over your shoulders.
- With your left hand, tuck the left side over your right shoulder, but under the right side of the scarf.
- With your right hand, throw the right side on top of your left shoulder, then tuck it snugly into the neckline of your sweater or shirt.
Feeling traditional: The Classic
This one keeps me warmest and is my favorite for fireside winter nights.
- Grab an end of your scarf in either hand. Drop it around your shoulders so that one end is shorter and stops just above the waist and the other hits around the knee.
- Wrap the long end around your neck and over a shoulder, then thread it down under the loop you’ve created at your front neckline.
- Thread the other side over-and-through the neckline loop so that both ends of the scarf are tucked neatly over your chest.
Loop the loop: Infinity Scarf
- First go through the steps of “The Classic” above.
- Loosen your completed “Classic” to shorten the ends a bit.
- Rotate the whole loop halfway around, so the fringe ends rest at the nape of your neck. Pro tip: If you have longer hair, gather it up as if you’re about to create a low ponytail, then tuck it down into your completed loop for a polished finish.
Know your kimono: Cape Jacket
My go-to for a fresh look whenever I’m on the go and packing light.
- With the scarf wide open, drape it over your shoulders and pull the interior sides to meet at the center of your waist.
- Grab a short belt and cinch it snugly over the scarf at the center of your natural waist. Gently pull down and across on each end so that one side lays flat and neat across the other.
Chakanu “Inca” Deluxe Shawl ℅ in beige
Zady .01 The Sweater in light grey
(medium; similar by Everlane & Cuyana)
Zady .05 The Boyfriend Button Up
(small; similar by Everlane)
Thrifted Paige Verdugo Jegging in medium rinse
(size 27R; Nordstrom, Amazon; or thrift at Tradesy, eBay, Poshmark, The Real Real)
Frye Paige Riding Boots in cognac
(on sale at Nordstrom, Amazon)
Get the look
A conversation with Chakanu’s Gina Moyano
R&F: Tell me a little about your brand.
Gina: I am the founder of Chakanu, a brand of accessories that combines the artisanal heritage of Andean cultures with sustainability and avant-garde designs. The objective of Chakanu is to deliver high-end products that integrate craftmanship, uniqueness, timelessness and legacy of the Andean cultures traditional art. The three pillars of Chakanu are sustainability, design, and ancestral art.
Together with a business partner, Vivian Tettamanti, who specializes in design, we currently have three product lines: Toquilla, which includes accessories made with toquilla straw shawl (Panama hat material) and Andean embroidery; Inca, a luxurious line of alpaca wool fiber scarves and shawls; and Nacar, handbags lined in mother of pearl.
What does the word “Chakanu” mean?
We intend that the word Chakanu makes reference to the French word “Chacun,” which means “each one,” referring to the idea that we consider each person on the value chain.
What made you want to create this brand?
In order to give you a better idea of the concept and reason why of Chakanu I need to tell you a bit more about me and about Ecuador. Ecuador is a country with a vast range of resources, considering we have four regions and a wide diversity of products — even though the country has about 60% of its people with low living conditions.
There is a strong ethnic heritage and interest in ancestral art, but it is not strongly established worldwide. With this in mind, in 2013 I wanted to develop a brand that enhanced the Andean heritage, creating better conditions for communities and applying sustainability, and overall to help communities in my country to have a better life. That is why I went to Switzerland to specialize in sustainability and to begin giving shape to Chakanu. Later on, I came back to Ecuador to work on the product concepts and the artisans. Chakanu started officially in July 2016.
Is Chakanu based in Otavalo, where your alpaca scarves are made, or another city?
Chakanu is based in Guayaquil, and we work with artisans from different locations. Otavalo, Cuenca and Guayaquil depending on the product. In some cases we combine artistry from different communities to create a single product. All our products are handcrafted by artisans in Ecuador.
A couple of months back, I saw that you had posted about new designs you are working on — might you have a sneak peek?
We are working on a new line of handbags line “Ethnic”. The handbags are made from fabrics with artisanal embroidery that have Andean symbols.
I saw that Chakanu ships through DHL. So, if someone in the US places an order with Chakanu, does the order arrive within 4-5 business days from Ecuador?
Exactly, we have the Express service so the product should arrive on that time, the latest.
Last but not least, do you have any favorite spots to visit in Ecuador?
I love all of Ecuador! Cuenca is a beautiful place, culturally speaking. There you have access to the culture of both the coast and Andean regions. For example, if you go the main market you can see Panama Hats — Montecristi hats from the coast — combined with Andean arts, such as the alpaca scarves and shawls.