Teysha’s Global Style
A Texan Couple Creates Sustainable Fashion Direct From Central America
It’s been another summer filled with fashion and music as Sophie Eckrich and Travis Breihan make their way across the US popping up their festival store to sell their Central American designed fashions, Teysha.
“[It’s] just amazing to meet people and get in front of customers and spread the word,” says Sophie, co-founder and CEO of Teysha, about traveling and meeting the estimated 6,000 subscribers on its email list and about 14,000 followers on social media.
This is the 25-year-old native Austin, Texas couple’s second US-wide tour of craft and music festivals to spread the word about their high quality and personally-made-to-fit footwear inspired by indigenous women in Colombia, Guatemala and Panama.
Girls That Roam caught up with Sophie when they stopped by Outside Lands in San Francisco last month to talk about fashion, social responsibility and travel.
College over and a couple of stints in Central America, Sophie and her partner in business and life, Travis, headed South landing in Panama in January 2012. In love with Central America, the couple put their personal savings to work developing fashionable bandanas, caps, boots and shoes made with fine leather and textiles woven together by indigenous women from tribes in Colombia, Guatemala and Panama and open Teysha.
Teysha (Tay-sha) means friend and ally in the Native Caddo people’s language in the couple’s homeland of Texas, according to the Teysha website.
By the end of the year they expanded to Colombia and Guatemala and added two staff, one at their headquarters in their home town and the other to manage the operations in Guatemala.
The business has been growing steadily within the two and a half years. In the first year they sold more than 1,500 boots and this year the business is growing at even a faster rate, says Sophie.
The couple also began designing blouses, handbags, headbands and other accessories by reinvesting their sales into the business and getting small investments from their families, Sophie says.
At the Teysha shop in Austin, they not only sell their Central American products, but also locally made crafts by artisans in what locals affectionately call the Lone Star State city, “Hippie Haven.”
Fashion From And For The Heart
Girls are falling in love with Teysha’s vibrant colors combined with its stylish design and the authentic story behind the product.
“We honesty couldn’t have expected it,” says Sophie about the response to Teysha. “We thought that they were beautiful and awesome, but we had no idea that so many other people would think so as well.”
Women excitedly come up to the Teysha booth at the festivals or step into the store and go crazy.
“The girls are so funny. They will be like, ‘Oh my God! Stop! This is amazing! This is the best thing I’ve ever seen in my life. I’ve never seen anything like this,’” says Sophie
Two Austin girls Arielle Levy and Hannah Rosenbaum, who are faithful fashionistas to Teysha, couldn’t tell Girls That Roam enough about why they love Teysha.
Many women have gotten excited about Teysha’s products, but Hannah, who appreciates knowing where her clothing comes from and the people who make it, believes it’s not only the trend right now with the indigenous designs, but also the story behind Teysha’s products.
“A lot of people wear sort of tribal or those types of prints right now because they think it just looks cool, but I really like that any of the Teysha products that I wear I can tell the story behind them,” says Hannah. “I think that is a lot cooler.”
Arielle, who found Teysha at an Austin farmer’s market, soon after Sophie and Travis launched Teysha, agrees with Hannah.
“It’s always a challenge to decide which pair to buy because each shoe is very unique and all of them are very colorful,” she says. “I love how colorful it is, so that’s an automatic plus see these fun patterns and designs makes you want to smile and wear more colors and be more bright.”
Beyond the bright colors the girls like that the shoes are made just for them. Sophie and Travis hand measure customers’ feet while they pick out the patters and shoe styles they want. They record the measurements and send them to their factory in Guatemala where the shoes are handmade and shipped to the store for pick up or directly to the customers.
“Sophie always jokes that you have to find your soul mate when you are looking for a pair of shoes,” says Hannah, because the shoes are custom made for the individual.
Arielle agrees adding, “It’s almost like you can find a shoe to fit your personality. If you have multiple shoes you can wear the pair to fit your mood for the day.”
“It’s really important for people to understand that their product is very unique,” says Hannah, who owns three pairs of boots and shoes and she’s bought bags, headbands and shoes as gifts for her family.
Arielle, who already owns two pairs of loafers, a pair of boots, a hat that goes everywhere with her and a headband is currently considering adding another pair of boots to her Teysha collection.
She wears her Teysha hat and boots all over Austin when she’s hiking, shopping or lying out by the pool. The hat also travels with her, most recently to California, Chile, Florida, and Israel twice this year alone, she says.
“A lot of people comment on the hat and ask about it. It’s a great conversation starter and it’s also just a great accessory piece,” says Arielle, who loves telling people about Teysha.
“I think that people can sense the love that goes into them,” says Sophie, about why she believes women are excited about the Teysha fashion line and are following them online and beginning to seek them out at the festivals.
The World Is Their Oyster
Growing up in Austin, Sophie and Travis went to separate high schools, but had friends in common, but it wasn’t until an environmental science trip to Hawaii when they were juniors that they became friends, says Sophie. The two hit it off staying friends through college, but as their interests grew so did their affection for each other. Four years later, they began dating and dreaming together.
The couple both earned their undergraduate degrees in Latin American Studies. Sophie focused on sociology and Travis focused on sustainable agriculture and reforestation. While they were working in Costa Rica and Panama the couple’s passion for Central America and the people, but they also discovered textiles made by the indigenous women making, particularly the Kuna women in Panama.
This planted the seed to create a product using the indigenous women’s woven materials into a product American’s would like while being socially responsible and sustainable.
“Our goal when we graduated was to start a social enterprise that would create opportunities for people and find ways to connect people with those communities that we were working with to the wider world,” says Sophie, about their focus on agriculture, fashion, food, reforestation, tourism and fair trade.
On the surface, it doesn’t appear that all of these products are worlds apart, but Sophie explains that fashion, even among indigenous women, is a “very powerful tool for people to express themselves and it also has this huge affect on our global resources and society,” she adds.
The materials the women use to create their textiles are plant-based while the leather comes from the animals, says Sophie. That feeds into the fashion and eventually tourism, as the couple dream of opening up their production facility and the local farms to travelers in the future.
Travis works closely with Teysha’s farmers and ranchers as well as the production facilities to implement eco-friendly and sustainable practices, says Sophie.
“We’ve both always loved the different places that we visited,” says Sophie.
She particularly likes the “vibrant cultures and dress” among the Kuna women, who were “making these beautiful textiles,” but they had “no way to share beyond just the textiles,” says Sophie. The couple recognized that the textiles were highly marketable in the US and beyond.
“We knew there was so much more potential,” says Sophie, pointing out that the women’s woven products were “something that people could wear and use.”
Together, with no experience in fashion design, the couple brainstormed and came up with boots and shoes, working with a bootmaker.
The couple spends a good part of the year traveling separately and together, says Sophie.
“We do get to travel a bunch, which is nice,” says Sophie about how the couple travels much of the year between Central America and around the US.
The couple makes the most of their traveling by meeting up with representatives of companies they admire and future boutiques and retailers they want to work with, she says.
They also take time out to enjoy their journeys by checking out historical sites, nature, restaurants and other things.
Check out Teysha’s boots and other fashion accessories at these upcoming festivals:
- September 13: Re:Make San Francisco, 11 a.m. – 6 p.m. at the Festival Pavilion at Fort Mason
- October 3 – 5 (First Weekend): Austin City Limits Music Festival, 10 a.m. – 10 p.m. at Zilker Park, 2100 Barton Springs Road
- October 10 – 12 (Second Weekend): Austin City Limits Music Festival, 10 a.m. – 10 p.m. at Zilker Park, 2100 Barton Springs Road
- November 24 – December 21: Artists and Fleas at the Chelsea Market, 10 a.m. – 9 p.m., in New York, 88 10th Avenue
Or online at Teysha.is and on Facebook Facebook.com/Teysha.is.
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