I first met Catalina of TREKO at a market in Yountville, and I was immediately drawn to her booth of woven goods. We began to chat, and not only did I fall in love with her beautiful blankets and pillows, but also the story of her company.
Catalina moved to the US from Chile after her husband's career required them to relocate. A former marketing director for L'Oreal in Chile, Catalina knew she wanted to work, but wasn't quite sure what kind of work she would pursue in the states, especially in a town where most jobs are in some way connected to the wine industry.
It wasn't until her sister called her to tell her about some beautiful weavings she had seen while visiting the island of Chiloé that Catalina discovered what "she was supposed to do" here in the US.
"...to share, as well as preserve, the textile traditions of the artisans of Chiloé, one of the most fascinating areas of the South of Chile."
The island of Chiloé relies heavily on tourism, but remains a very poor community in South America. While the men are primarily fishermen, many families also raise their own sheep, spin their own wool, and the women then weave beautiful textiles to be sold to tourists visiting the island.
The sheep, called Chilota, have adapted to the weather of the island leaving their wool water resistant, durable, and flexible. The wool is unique because of its water resistant characteristics as well as its durability. The wool is boiled multiple times to remove the natural oils, and is then spun into the soft yarn that is the foundation of the textiles.
After the call with her sister, Catalina became passionate about sharing her country's traditions and art in America. Working alongside the women artisans, she helped design the TREKO collections in line with a modern aesthetic. TREKO textiles are dyed using natural elements like bark, leaves, and minerals and then woven using traditional techniques that have been passed down for generations. A beautiful ying and yang of old and new.
TREKO has helped its women artisans triple their income since its opening; however, Catalina doesn't want to stop at just weaving. Chiloe is rich in other natural elements like copper and clay, and Catalina dreams that someday, the entire island will be creating for TREKO.
“This has changed their lives drastically. Before they used to produce all year just to sell in summertime for the tourists, my dream is to have the whole island working for this so we will really be able to show off our art and traditions.”
I have said time and time again just how passionate I am about empowering artists around the world, especially women. The TREKO story inspires me just like the Ahmadi Carpet story. I couldn't be more proud to carry the collection at Chateau Sonoma. We hope you will be able to visit us to see for yourself just how beautiful these textiles are!