Founded by Alessandra Tona and Maria Elena Padilla in El Salvador, ALMA stands for Ale and Maria and means “soul” in Spanish. Alessandra and Maria were inspired to start the sustainable handbag brand by a young artist named Jose, who traveled over eight hours to and from University each day and worked multiple jobs in order to fulfill his dream of becoming a Spanish teacher in Paris. Hearing Jose’s story, the two felt moved to provide opportunity for youth and artisans in El Salvador, where socioeconomic inequality and exposure to social violence are rampant.
ALMA’s production is inspired by upcycling. Their mission is to upcycle the potential of human beings by weaving opportunities. Each ALMA bag is one-of-a-kind and is handwoven by artisans and students in El Salvador using recycled plastic thread, taking up to 3 days to complete. ALMA upcycles humans by providing a fair wage environment and creating an economy that provides for those that endure hardships. ALMA upcycles waste by using entirely upcycled plastic in the creation of each bag. ALMA upcycles artisans by recovering and maintaining the traditional craft of weaving.
The trims on each ALMA bag are made by young, at risk students in El Salvador. ALMA supports these students with full university sponsorships and has developed a system that allows the students to prioritize their studies, while also having the ability to work. ALMA creates take away “kits” with the raw materials and tools needed to craft the trims, making it easy for the students to work in their free time. The students are only allowed to work for 2.5 hours a day, ensuring focus on grades and education.
“If you can dream it, you can do it. At ALMA we believe in supporting the community of weavers and in helping our apprentices achieve their dreams.” - Alessandra Tona and Maria Elena Padilla, co-Founders