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Understanding Our Textiles

Understanding Our Textiles

Over the years we’ve gathered quite the knowledge base and collection of various handmade textiles with a wide variety of techniques from around the world. So much so, it can be hard to keep track of. And that is the purpose of this article, to pick apart the different artisan processes to better help you understand why our bags have different prices.


We have three main categories of products, the Classic Line, Special Edition and Master Series. The simple explanation is that they are priced based on the amount of time and detail each artisan puts into the handmade process and prices they sell the finished pieces to us for. All are unique and beautiful in their own way, but it might not be obvious to the untrained eye, why one textile design is more costly than the other.

Classic Line

Our Classic Line includes all wax-resist hand stamped batik fabric styles from our artisan partners in Ghana and Indonesia. It also includes all traditional pit-loom textiles from India and most foot pedal loom textiles from Guatemala. It also includes all of our black nylon and recycled PET bag styles, which are lined internally with woven fabric from our Cham artisan partners in Vietnam. 

The Classic Line is our entry level price because the artisans have optimized their processes to take less time to produce larger amounts, which also leads to a higher level of consistency across the collection. These styles are our core line and what we’ve been producing the longest. They’re the lifeblood of Ethnotek that allow us to take our mission to a large scale. Without the classic line, there wouldn’t be Ethnotek. 

In simpler visual terms, where you usually see stripes, repeat patterns and thinner material, is where this category shines. Like in the bag styles highlighted below. 

Special Edition

Our Special Edition products consist of Hmong Embroideries from our artisan-partners in Vietnam and Kente cloth from Ghana. Hmong embroidery combines four techniques: foot loom woven hemp fiber for the base fabric, indigo batik wax-resist dying for the dark blue sections and cross-stitch and applique embroidery for the detailed motif sections. 

Kente cloth with it’s origins from Ashanti and Ewe tribal royalty is Ghana’s identity and is truly something special. It is woven on a narrow strip loom most common to western Africa. The maximum width these looms can weave is 12 centimeters and is where our Kente Collection gets it’s distinct minimalist vertical stripe look. All Kente Collection bags feature a Special Edition label on the inside. See if you can find them!

Master Series

Our Master Series is home to the most time-consuming, detail-oriented and sophisticated textiles in our product catalogue. These are as good as it gets!

The Mayan Star collection within the master series boasts a technique that Master weaver Alirio and his family call the Pepinado technique. The loom weaving for the classic line is fast, fluid and loud… The weaving for the Mayan Star is slow and silent and every single horizontal line of weft yarn takes 15-20 minutes to complete. One meter of this fabric takes a full day to make and only three Raja Pack Threads can be cut from one meter. The Star design featured in this textile is inspired by Mayan Astrology, a core tenet of Mayan culture and spiritual beliefs.

The Rabari collection from the Kutch Desert region in Gujarat India is built using the reverse-applique technique. Bold 3-dimensional designs are overlaid on to the front of the fabric and hand-stitched into place on the backside of the fabric. It’s literally like sewing blind! Only the artisan knows where each design needs to be stitched down. One Rabari panel the size of the Raja Pack Thread can take weeks to make. The various designs featured in Rabari textiles are suns, snakes, flowers, peacocks, and zig-zag paths, things they see in everyday life and have significance in their Hindu belief system.

The newest members of our Master Series are the Falseria and Jaspe designs from San Marcos and Totonicipan. 

Falseria is a process that emulates back-strap brocade weaving and essentially is embroidery on the loom. It takes deep concentration and thread counting to make sure the wildly vibrant dancing patterns appear on the finished textile.

Jaspe (also known as Ikat in Indonesia) is a process that defines each motif through a series of tying and dying Cordeles or yarn hanks (sections of raw yarn bundles of about 20-50 threads). After the dye dries, the multi-colored cordeles are spooled into bobins that are inserted into a shuttle for weaving. The motif magically appears only after the finished textile is woven and complete. The motifs often seen in these Jaspe fabrics are objects from daily life like people, corn, baskets, fruit, etc., and live only in the artisans mind until it becomes a finished roll of fabric. These artisans are magicians behind the loom! 

Airborne Textiles

Another factor added to the reason our fabrics are priced the way they are, is that we air freight the finished textiles as they are too precious to lose. they simply can not be reproduced in time, a full season would be lost. This provides the artisan with more time to finish their work and increases the likelihood of everything arriving to our workshop in Vietnam safely to be assembled into finished bags. Fluctuating currency values, inflation and raw material costs are boring financial market matters, but very real variables that affect the price of fabric and in turn, our bags. 

Intentions & Love

Hopefully that was a helpful and not too technical way to help you understand the different techniques we use in our fabric designs and why they’re priced the way they are.  

As part of our direct trade concept, we do not negotiate the purchasing prices of the fabric, even for larger quantities. We see it as part of the appreciation to accept the prices asked by the artisans and our responsibility to curate every piece of their art at the highest level.

Over the years, we have established lasting partnerships with artisans and their families in five countries around the world. We consider it a great honor that the creators of these textile designs value the Ethnotek brand equally and grant us permission to feature their traditional handmade textiles in our functional bags and backpacks. Our common desire is to celebrate cultural diversity and give local crafts a global stage.


It is far too often that traditional textile motifs are copied and reprinted in the sports and fashion industries without gaining permission from the original creators or involving them financially. We firmly stand against this cultural misappropriation! We are in the busines of elevating the artisan-entrpreneurs who authentically create these traditional textiles and promoting their cultural roots. This core value and the textiles themselves are what give our bags a soul, a meaning, a purpose, a story. Combined with our extremely high standards for quality, functionality, simplicity and beauty, we’re proud to be a market leader in the ethical bag space. Even if you don’t buy a bag from us, we encourage you to do your homework when searching for other brands to make sure there are ethical and environmental benefits built-in. As conscious consumers, we owe that to our beautiful planet and the incredible humans that inhabit it. 

Thanks for the ongoing love and support that make our shared mission possible!

- Ethnotek team

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