on this latest article. Read the interview here.
Stewart+Brown has selected a few outstanding people, whom we like to call UpRighters, who’s sense of passion and purpose is contagious and inspiring. An UpRighter is someone who is selfless, philanthropic, eco-conscious and is an all around, gosh-darn good person who only wants to do “the right thing”.
“Saving the Amazon One Seed at a Time. Amazon Boho Chic Eco Jewelry for the Love of People, Planet & Culture.”
We’ve selected Violeta Villacorta as a Stewart+Brown UpRighter. She is the owner of ORG by vio, which stands for Organic Rainforest Goods. By vio is an acronym for Violeta and Indigenous Organizations. ORG by vio offers bohemian jewelry, clothing and accessories that are eco-friendly, handmade by artisans from the Amazon Rainforest for planet lovers who live, love, play and work around the world.
Their mission is to create sustainable and viable solutions in partnership with indigenous artisans and communities while bringing you beautiful bohemian jewelry and fashion.
Artisans are paid a fair trade price for each piece of jewelry and accessory. They share profits with artisans through projects that address their needs to ensure their success. This funds the artisans’ projects and trainings that help them manage their businesses independently, enhancing their livelihood and community.
Please read below Violeta’s answers to our UpRighter questionnaire, which will shed light on what it truly takes to be an UpRighter.
1. What is your profession?
I am a fashion designer, specializing in sustainable design since the early 90’s. And since my work with Amazon artisans, I am also designing jewelry and accessories.
2. Where do you live?
I live in Idyllwild since 2012. I moved back to LA briefly after living in Ventura since 2003. Then my husband and I found this magical and artistic mountain town near Palm Springs.
3. Where did you grow up?
I grew up in Lima, Perú till I was 12, then my family moved to New York City where I lived till I was in my mid twenties.
4. What are you passionate about?
Life, water, nature, the environment, dancing, people and I love the creative process. Not just on my own, but collaborating with others. It’s a great way to bring about the best ideas to life.
5. When did you discover your passion?
I discovered my love for designing clothes around the age of 7 or so. I drew little girls with colorful clothes and I’d make paper dolls. Then started sewing outfits for my actual dolls. I also took sewing, embroidery and knitting in elementary school while still in Lima. At age13, and already in the US, I decided to become a designer. I took classes at Pratt Institute in Brooklyn while still in high school at the United Nations International School.
My commitment to the environment and global issues began in my teens while at UNIS, which has molded my life.
6. In what ways is your work influenced by your passion?
My passion for design and the environment are part of my work. When I graduated from FIT in New York, I worked with a few companies. It was good experience, but none were committed to sustainable practices. It was not something that was happening back in the late 80’s. That was disappointing as I entered the industry. So, in the early 90’s I started working on one-of-a-kind pieces, handmade with the most sustainable and beautiful materials I could find (www.violetavillacorta.com). I used hemp, organic cotton, burlap, raffia straw, silk, quartz crystals, etc. I still love burlap and straw. There is a golden quality in every piece I’ve made with those two materials. I also chose to work with more conscious companies like Patagonia where I was a senior designer and where I met Karen and Howard.
When I left Patagonia in 2008, I wanted to use my love for design and the environment more directly with communities that were affected by extractive industries. The Amazon, in particular, is an area that has been exploited for its rich resources: oil, gas, wood, gold; and there is so much clear-cutting and destruction from the agricultural and cattle industries. The indigenous populations are largely affected by contamination and encroachment. They are forced to change their way of life once they have been contacted and affected. This is what moved me to work with the talented artisans in the Amazon, most of them women. I have been working on design projects with Amazon artisans in Ecuador and Perú since 2010. The ORG by vio brand (www.orgbyvio.com) was created to sell their artistry as a sustainable alternative. Using traditional and contemporary methods and designs, we collaborate on beautiful collections together.
7. What has been the most pleasant surprise from your work?
I love the simplicity of life in the jungle. The people are beautiful humble, witty and wise. The soil, the rain, the plants smell so alive and delicious. Collaborating with them and learning more about their cultures and way of life is enriching creatively and spiritually.
8. How would you describe your style?
Bohemian or tribal chic. I mix colorful clothes and patterns from different cultures. Other times, I wear clothes that have clean lines in subtle colors and accessorize with a big statement necklace, lots of bracelets and rings.
9. Where do you like to shop and why?
I’m not much of a shopper, aside from food. I have a wall-size closet with clothes that I’ve had for decades, some are my own designs, which are still relevant today. But when I do shop, I buy from friend’s lines like Stewart Brown, Linda Loudermilk, etc. I like to stumble upon a store that has something special and unique.
10. List your two closet go-to items.
For a special event, I wear my Sun Vest, which I handmade in the 90’s. I wear it with jeans or layered skirts. It’s still my favorite piece. I also live in my Oxumwear leggings from another friend’s line that no longer exists. I was head to toe in Stewart Brown yesterday without even knowing it.
11. What is your favorite Stewart+Brown piece? Why?
A knitted linen skirt I got a few years back. It’s a great design, off-white with black stripes along the bottom. It just looks good and it’s a piece that I will wear for a long time.
12. What are three things you’re doing to live a green life?
It’s hard to just pick three. It all falls under a type of lifestyle. I am conscious about the resources I use. I have been eating organically since my late teens – when I could buy my own food – mostly locally sourced. A decision I made early on as a response to the excessive use of chemicals in our soil. I ate some fish, but became a vegetarian some years ago and now I am fully vegan since last year, when my husband and I made a decision not to eat eggs or cheese after watching documentaries on some of the practices of conventional and organic free-range farms. We were shocked at the conditions. If we can all avoid meat in our diets or, at the very least, reduce meat consumption, we’d be saving a lot on resources like water, fossil fuel and help stop the clear-cutting of forests for cattle and feed. That alone can have a major positive impact on the planet.
I buy sustainable products for the home. I don’t drink bottled water or anything in plastic bottles for that matter. I recycle, reuse, use my own shopping bags. I drive a partially zero emissions vehicle (PZEV) since 2001, although, I prefer to telecommute and minimize any type of travel. Most of my work with Amazon artisans is done over the internet, unless it is absolutely necessary to travel. I host my websites with a sustainable hosting company that uses wind energy. While I lived in Ventura, I bought a small house that I converted into a fully sustainable home. I put solar panels and a solar water heater, giving back 2/3 of excess to the grid; outfitted it with all energy-efficient electric appliances and cancelled my gas service. I didn’t have any utility bills, aside from water, for 7 years. After I sold it and we moved to Idyllwild, we convinced our landlord to switch to a utility company that uses wind and solar farms. I look forward to retrofitting or designing a fully sustainable home again.
13. What music are you listening to?
Pandora is great while I work, do yoga or dance around the house. It’s between classic ska, dub, dubstep, house, deep house, Kuduro, Balkan Beat Box, and Tibetan chants, depending on what I am doing.
14. What song makes you want to dance?
Not so much a song, it is more a type of music. Kuduro or ska gets me going when I need to energize.
15. What is the last inspiring film you saw?
Kon-Tiki, about Norwegian explorer and writer Thor Heyerdahl. He made an expedition on a raft from Lima, Perú, to prove his theory that the Inca people had maritime knowledge and traveled the seas to colonize Polynesia. His vision was unwavering.
16. What have you recently read that you would recommend?
On our road trip to Canada and back, we listened to the audio book And the Mountains Echoed by Khaled Hosseini. It is a rich and colorful story that spans 7 decades and 3 generations from Afghanistan to Greece, France and the US.
17. What book are you looking forward to reading?
Lessons from the Poor by Peruvian writer Alvaro Vargas Llosa.
18. What is your favorite food dish to make?
A vegan version of a Peruvian dish called saltado (meaning sautéed). It has lots of veggies, brown rice and home fries with seitan or a side of beans or nuts for protein. The conventional version uses white rice, onions, tomatoes, fries with some type of meat or seafood.
19. If you weren’t a designer, what other career would you like to have?
I would have fun being a dancer or a professional mermaid, like Hannah Fraser.
20. What are the most important things in your life?
My family, my health, alone time and time for friends.
21. Name someone (from the past or present) you admire and respect, and list why you choose this person.
There are a number of people who inspire me in my life for different reasons. But I have to say that my mother is at the top of my list. She is a powerful woman who has always followed her heart and vision. She grew up in the mountains of Perú, in Cajamarca. As a little girl she dreamt of living in a big city. She sat at her doorstep looking over the mountains imagining what it was like on the other side. She comes from an era where women stayed at home and cared for the children. Instead, she was determined to get a degree and work. She became the director of demography at the Institute of Statistics in Peru. After my dad died, leaving her with three young children, she left Peru to work at United Nations in New York. She was the Civil Registration expert at the UN where she worked on creating programs for developing countries and traveled the world. She gave us a multicultural education at UNIS that is priceless. Her determination to move forward against adversity has been an inspiration to me through the years. She has always made decisions that move her and her family forward. I have the utmost respect and admiration for my mom.
22. Where do you find inspiration?
Nature, cultures inspire me. The anthropological aspect of designing and creating is very interesting. Studying the world through the arts and customs. I’m also inspired by period films and going to museums; and I enjoy introspective, quiet time to see what comes up.
23. What is something about you that most people don’t know or wouldn’t guess?
I have been buying the Lotto since I was 18 years old. Even though my mom is a statistician and has told me it’s a waste, I still do it. I can list all the projects and people it could help.
24. What are you still learning?
A number of things. Life is all about learning and discovering new things. That is what keeps me going. But to be more specific, I am learning about how to balance my life and work. Since I work from home and I am immersed in the cause, I can’t stop sometimes.
25. What is one thing that you would highly recommend?
Can I recommend a few? We need to reduce our overall consumption; live closer to work; companies should implement more telecommuting into their equation; and consider a plant-based diet.