everMaya and Madeline Stuart Steal Our Hearts

Jul 22, 2015

Do you believe in love at first sight? I do. Because of this picture:

Madeline Stuart everMaya - Hello, Handbag

This is Madeline Stuart for EverMaya. Madeline is an 18 year old model with Down Syndrome, and she's gorgeous. I fell head over heels for the story this photograph tells and wanted to learn more about the visionary brand behind it.

EverMaya is a woman-owned, minority-owned brand where every purchase gives back. Right up our alley, right? So I'm thrilled to bring you this exclusive interview with EverMaya President Damian Graybelle:


Hello, Handbag: Thank you for being here Damian! Where do you get the inspiration for these beautiful bags?

Damian Graybelle: The intent from the beginning has been very clear - to blend the centuries-old Mayan (Guatemalan) tradition of making beautiful, artisanal items by hand, and blending that tradition with modern, fashion-forward styling to create truly unique, one-of-a-kind pieces. The color palettes have also been painstakingly selected to stay true to the beautiful, vibrant colors found within Guatemala.

Madeline Stuart for everMaya barefoot - Hello, Handbag
Madeline Stuart modeling EverMaya's Huipil Bucket Bag
Hello Handbag: We know you design your bags in-house, but we don't know anything about your talented design team. Who are they? How did they develop this gift?

Damian Graybelle: Alyse Karakoc, Alejandra Carranza, and Gabriela Carranza-Graybelle. Alyse is our Director of Brand Strategy and has 15 years of prior experience in luxury fashion, including Director of Visual Merchandising and East Coast Director of Stores for some very well-known luxury brands. Alejandra also has extensive fashion experience as an executive in luxury home decor in Guatemala, and she and her sister Gabriela were born fashionistas - instilled in them from birth by their mother, Angela.

Hello Handbag: EverMaya aims to provide education and "basic human needs of indigenous children." Have you been able to do that? Can you give an example?

Damian Graybelle: From Day 1, EverMaya partnered with Education for the Children, a foundation for disadvantaged youth in Jocotenango, Guatemala. In April, while visiting EFTC with my aunt and uncle, I had the amazing opportunity to do a presentation in Spanish for a class of 9th graders on what it means to be an entrepreneur. I took a fancy French word and made it relatable to their own experiences. People selling fruit on the street are entrepreneurs, I told them. They decide exactly how to position and price their products in a competitive landscape. I then asked who wanted to start their own business.

Hands shot up across the classroom! One of the boys in the class, Luis, said that he wanted to export broccoli all over the world. He said it with such enthusiasm, that with one look at his face I knew he was serious! Two girls in the class, Carolay and Jennifer, want to own and run a hotel. To hear young people that have no guarantees as to whether they will have enough food to eat at home once they leave school each day yet to be so confident in what their future holds is something I will never forget.

It also just so happens that one of my wife's best friends, Pame, is the General Manager of a beautiful hotel in Antigua, the next town over. I am already working with the school to set up an opportunity for the girls to shadow Pame to see what a day in the life of a hotel executive looks like.

Madeline Stuart for everMaya yellow - Hello, Handbag
Madeline Stuart showing off EverMaya's Huipil Weekender Tote
Thank you Damian for taking the time to tell us about the passion behind your work!

Now that I know more about EverMaya, I'm even more excited to purchase my first bag. Will it be an envelope clutch? One of the ever-useful weekender totes? Or my first love, the bucket bag from Madeline's picture? I can't decide and I'd love to hear your thoughts, leave a comment below!

Photo Credit: EverMaya / Graham Cowan (thank you!)

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