WENDELL, N.C. (WNCN) — Lisbeth Carolina Arias has spent her life balancing different worlds. She was born in El Salvador but moved to North Carolina as a young girl.
She grew up in Sanford, where her mother worked as a seamstress. Arias went on to study fashion and textile design at North Carolina State University. After working for major brands in the fashion industry, like Vera Wang, she decided to bridge her two worlds using her own company, Descalza.
The idea for Descalza first came while Arias was still in college, interning at a clothing brand in Guatemala.
“When I see these textiles for the first time, I feel like I’m learning part of my history, part of my indigenous roots,” said Arias. She knew then that her mission was to work her way back to using those traditional fabrics.
Now, Descalza is a multi-country operation that Arias runs out of her garage in Wendell. The concept is a combination of the traditional fabrics from Latin America and North Carolina’s textile history. Arias sources all of her materials from Latin American countries with their own distinct weaving techniques.
After arriving in the United States, Descalza’s head seamstress, Magdalena Cruz, gets to work bringing Arias’s designs to life an hour away in Sanford. Cruz, who used to work in industrial textile factories, said she prefers Descalza’s smaller, artisanal setup, because of the quality that goes into the product.
“You never stop learning. Every day you make something new. I like everything about it, because it’s my passion,” said Cruz. She also likes that Descalza supports artisans around Latin America.
Using traditional techniques means Arias has had to adapt her designs to fit within the confines of the artisans’ machines. The most expensive item in her catalog is one example of this.
“This particular fabric is made on a traditional weaving loom. That loom is 36 inches wide, so it’s very narrow, and this skirt has also this volume. We had to engineer our pattern so that it fit length-wise instead of width-wise, because it doesn’t have any width,” said Arias.
Arias said she doesn’t have any plans to move production outside of North Carolina, even though it’s more expensive than outsourcing somewhere else.
“The reason I’m not producing everything in El Salvador, and the reason I’m having everything shipped to North Carolina is because North Carolina is a textile town. Like, North Carolina is also known as a place where makers live.”
In addition to the wealth of skilled textile workers in the state, she also said keeping manufacturing in the state where she grew up is a representation of her different worlds.
“There’s a phrase in Spanish, ‘Ni de aqui, ni de alla,’ not from here not from there. I wanted to change that and say, ‘no’. We’re de aqui y de alla. You can be from both and it’s ok. You can be proud of both and that’s okay. These fabrics and these pieces that we make are a reflection of that,” said Arias.