How a Travel Disaster Inspired a Line of Handmade Bags
When Cambria Foden went to Ecuador for a head-clearing getaway, she definitely didn’t expect to get a gnarly infection—or to leave with the idea for her delicate, toquillo straw bag line Unalome. So what happened there that, frankly, changed her life? We’ll let her take you on the whole journey.
“I took a break from my career and decided to go on a week-long wellness retreat in Ecuador with my boyfriend, not knowing where work would come from when I got back. On our way back to Los Angeles, however, we got stuck by force in the city we were staying for an extra five days because of a city-wide eye-infection epidemic that we were exposed to. We were mandated by airport personnel to remain in the city for what at first was an unknown amount of time. Day after day, we would check out of a new hotel and bring our luggage to the airport in hopes of going home, but for five days we were sent back.”
“On what would turn out to be our last night in the city, despite our fatigue and swollen, painful eyes, we decided to take a walk up a well-known staircase hike to catch a view of the city at sunset. On the way down, a tiny shop selling colorful straw hats caught my eye. The craftsmanship of the products they were selling was beautiful, but it was one small, delicate bag hanging up in the corner of the shop that called out to me. I struck up a conversation with the young woman in the shop, and she told me about her family’s trade, weaving various products out of locally sourced toquilla straw. That evening, I bought this beautiful woven bag from her, and since that day, Vanessa and I have developed a friendship and a business partnership and have been creating these beautiful, handwoven bags together. It’s been almost a year.”
“I learned that when you pause for a moment and open yourself up to something new, your life can guide you in an exciting direction that you weren’t expecting. When you make a change and allow yourself to be vulnerable–that’s when good things happen. I want to inspire others, especially women, to get out of their comfort zones and to figure out what it is they actually love to do. In your life, you have these goals and you think ‘once I have this, I’ve made it,’ or ‘once I do this, I’ve arrived,’ but that’s not how life is. It’s journey, and it twists and turns.”