Happy Mochila was created out of a deep love for Colombian craftsmanship and culture.
Founded by Luisa Alba, art curator and admirer, Happy Mochila represents a sincere appreciation of Colombian culture and art.
The company was born out of Alba’s fascination with handmade creations by Colombian artisans.
Through her travels between her native Colombia and Philadelphia, Alba discovered Philly’s openness to works of art from other cultures.
With a multicultural, Philadelphia-based audience in mind, Happy Mochila brought their products to Philly after it was founded in 2019.
Happy Mochila offers an assortment of Colombian artisan products. This includes pins, other accessories and jewelry such as bracelets and earrings. They also carry hammocks.
More importantly, the company offers its iconic mochilas, various bags and purses that can double as wallets.
“The mochilas are, more or less, the identity of Colombia, culturally and [in] ancestry, ”said Alba AL DÍA. “The natives made these bags by hand. They pretty much put their heart and soul into each of their posts.
Each bag is designed with respect for nature, from the creation process to the materials used. Each item is also unique, from the way it looks to the story behind it.
The pins are made by Bogota-based brand company Bric Á Brac, while artisans like Olga Delgado design iconic mochilas.
As Alba herself explains, mochilas are handcrafted bags with patterns resembling “the flow of density. [and] vast nature found in the rainforest of Colombia.
Mochilas have become in a way a symbol of Colombian identity and are known as an accessory carrying the message of tradition and culture.
Inside Happy Mochila
Happy Mochila adopts designs that use Caña Flecha in their construction.
Caña Flecha is a herbal fabric commonly used to design handbags, earrings, wallets and Sombrero Vueltiao, making Happy Mochila a company with a mindful approach.
“[The artisans] really do a great job with the way they treat Caña Flecha, ”said Alba. “From a plant … becomes a purse.”
One craftsman who processes Caña Flecha by hand is José Ciprian, and works with his family to process the material. Each craftsman puts his heart into the creation process.
Happy Mochila was born from an Alba gap observed among artisans operating in Colombia.
Not so long ago, Alba and her sister attended an annual event in Bogotá, Colombia. Craftsmen from different cities were present to present their works of art and products.
At the event, Alba would meet many of the artisans she works with today. During a conversation, Alba learned about the obstacles that artisans face in marketing their products.
These obstacles to commercialization often stem from limited resources, displacement and illegal recruitment linked to ongoing armed conflicts.
Obstacles created by the coronavirus pandemic have also posed challenges.
After hearing about the hardships faced by artisans, Alba launched Happy Mochila and soon after brought the artisan’s handcrafted creations and Colombian culture to Philly.
“We wanted to make this bridge of all the drawings and all the artistic work in Bogotá,” Alba said. “I want to be the bridge between them and here.”
Thanks to Alba’s company, Colombian artisans have the opportunity to offer their design and handmade products to the city.
Adopting Philadelphia as a home, Happy Mochila also worked with members of the Philadelphia community.
Happy Mochila collaborated with the Independence Visitor Center, producing two lapel pins. One depicts Rocky Balboa while another features an interpretation of the Love Park sign.
“We wanted… to show Bogotá, [and] some traditional symbols of Philadelphia, through a pin, ”said Alba.
As Happy Mochila grows, the opportunities to work with Philly creators and businesses will only increase.
Happy Mochila for the future
Happy Mochila operates through bilingual English-Spanish communication, further opening the door for multicultural residents of Philly.
In the future, Happy Mochila does not intend to stop there.
One idea from Alba is to open a cafe offering traditional Colombian coffee in addition to creations made by hand by artisans.
“I had this great idea to open a little cafe where you walk in and feel like you’re in Colombia: hanging hammocks, mochilas on display, and also offering Colombian coffee,” Alba said.
“A mini Colombia where people can come, discover the products, enjoy a coffee… take a little trip to South America,” she continued.
Wherever the brand is found, the collaborators of Alba and Happy Mochila have no intention of slowing down. For Alba, there is no limit.
To see Happy Mochila’s selection of artisanal products, go here.