The story behind the name of shoe company Teysha was inspired by an indigenous Caddo word that roughly translates to “friend and ally” and that’s what the team behind the brand has become for Latin American artisans.
Sofia Luz Eckrich grew up in Austin with a Mexican mother and an American father and would regularly visit Mexico which inspired an early love for the native art and culture.
“I’ve always had a deep connection to the colors, art, and culture of Mexico, but growing up it was also strongly apparent to me that there were many children in Mexico who might have not had the same opportunities as I did growing up in Austin.”
She went on to study sociology and international development at the University of Texas at Austin interning in microfinance with Whole Planet Foundation in Guatemala and Peru.
Her passion for regional textiles in Latin America coupled with her love and expertise in international development led to the creation of Teysha in 2012. The company brings the works of artisans from Latin America to the U.S., exposing their handmade shoe styles to a new set of customers.
The bright and ornate designs are emblazoned on the shoes that are made-to-order. The brand also gives customers the option to design their own shoe by choosing their leather and textile, a popular choice according to Eckrich.
The company initially worked out of various towns in Colombia, Panama and Guatemala before developing its central hub outside of Antigua in Guatemala, a city in the central highlands.
They previously had a shop in Austin and have now opened up a store in Brooklyn but the tale behind the name has its own South x South America roots:
The story goes that when the Spanish arrived to the Southwest US region, they heard the land being called Teysha, which they translated to Tejas, and then became the word Texas. We believe in the spirit of friendship and alliances throughout our communities and industry.
Eckrich, along with Director of Production Hanna Hall de Arzu and Creative Director Ashley Ludkowski, are the backbone of the company.
“Our team met through mutual friends and a shared passion for Latin America and textiles” Eckrich explained.
All three women have personal connections to Latin America: Eckrich through her mom and studies, de Arzu who resides in Guatemala and Ludkowski who traveled throughout South America.
Through extensive travel and connecting with the locals they created their team of artisans, who range in age from 22 to 60. According to Eckrich, most of their shoemaking team is made up of men, per tradition in their community, and most of their textile makers are women.
Teysha employs 12 artisans for shoe making and works with textile small businesses and cooperatives who connect them with more than 300 artisans who benefit in various ways from their partnership with the brand.
“Every artisan that we work with benefits from receiving fair trade wages, consistent orders and work, and the opportunity to work either in or close to home,” Eckrich said.
In the five years since the company started they’ve expanded their shoe collections and received recognition for their sustainable fashion. Project Just, an organization that documents the production practices, namely their environmental and social impact, of fashion brands included Teysha in their list stylish and eco-friendly shoes.
It takes about eight people to make one shoe depending on the design and though that was their initial focus, they have since expanded to include home goods including blankets and pillows and accessories, all with handmade unique designs.
“Teysha was started with the goal of creating a platform for the traditional arts and skills to be shared with the world, creating a new model in ethical fashion, and facilitating a better understanding and appreciation of different cultures” Eckrich said.