Altiplano: About the Makers

Altiplano Guatemalan artisans - I made your scarf

Where: Lake Atitlan, Guatemala
Founder and designer: Shari Zarin (USA)
Number of workers: Over 180 artisans in Guatemala
Products: Scarves, bags and jewellery
Materials: Organic bamboo, cotton, leather, sterling silver and recycled brass
Values: Fair Trade, slow fashion, sustainable materials, keeping traditional craft techniques and culture alive, empowering women

The Altiplano Story

'Altiplano' translates to 'high plain', a name that embodies the mountainous landscape surrounding Lake Atitlan in Guatemala, an awe-inspiring region marked by dramatic volcanoes, steep hills and Mayan culture.

Altiplano founder Shari Zarin has been partnering with artisans in Guatemala to bring her jewellery and accessory designs to life for 30 years. With a focus on providing employment that aligns with Fair Trade Principles, the products are handmade in a Fair Trade workshop in Lake Atitlan, as well as by local women's cooperatives and small family businesses. One of the things that makes Altiplano's products so special is that they utilise traditional Mayan craft techniques, helping keep this ancient culture alive.

"The magic begins in Guatemala where my designs are lovingly crafted by the Mayan people, working together to create beautiful things and a future for their families.  Each piece has a unique journey to being ultimately chosen by the wearer as a creative form of self expression. It’s a whole beautiful story that brings my life joy and meaning."

- Shari Zarin

In tune with the needs of the local Guatemalan women and their traditional lifestyle, Altiplano's work arrangements are flexible, providing them with the option to work from home. This enables women artisans to look after their families and manage household chores while continuing to earn their own income independent of their husbands.

Not only is accounting for local women's needs an important step towards financial independence and gender equality, it also has positive flow on effects for the next generation. With a reliable income, women can afford to pay for their children's school fees. The UN estimates that women invest 90% of their income back into their families, whereas for men that figure is 30-40%.

Shari, her husband John and their three kids share their time between living in Guatemala and living in Vermont, USA.



Shari (right) and some of the artisans who make Altiplano scarves
The dark recent history of Guatemala - during the Civil War between 1960 and 1996 more than 200,000 people were killed, including in over 600 massacres. Indigenous Mayan people made up over 80% of the victims.

Meet the Makers

Handwoven Scarves - Women's Cooperative


Fashion Revolution - Altiplano Guatemala

Altiplano's Organic Bamboo Scarves are handwoven and hand-dyed by a coop of women artisans. To create the strikingly colourful scarves, the artisans dye the fabric using the traditional 'ikat' dyeing technique, and weave the scarves on back-strap looms. By drawing on the skills and techniques that have been passed down through the generations, these talented women keep the Mayan culture and their incredible craft techniques alive.

This group began in the 80's as a way forward after the unimaginable horror and violence of the massacres that occurred in Guatemala during the Civil War, which left many women widowed. The coop continues to empower women by providing them with a reliable income and dignified work, enabling them to have financial independence and contribute to their families' expenses.

Altiplano - Scarf Artisans Guatemala

Jewellery Artisans - Fair Trade Workshop

Altiplano Jewellery Artisans Guatemala | The Fair Trader

Working with some of the same women since they began in the 90's, Altiplano's jewellery is handcrafted by artisans at their Fair Trade workshop in Lake Atitlan. The women can also choose to work from home so they can balance work and family life. The jewellery is crafted from materials such as recycled brass and sterling silver.

Meet some of the amazing artisans below.


Jewellery artisans Guatemala - Altiplano

 Bags and Clutches

Guatemalan Bags - Fair Trade Altiplano