Jacqueline Suriano - Jacqueline Suriano

Winner of the The Most Socially Responsible Handbag

El Salvador

2016 Finalist Jacqueline Suriano Jacqueline Suriano

Jacqueline Suriano FINALIST'S PROFILE

What country are your bags manufactured?
El Salvador

Please explain how your bags are socially responsible?
My home country El Salvador is a nation afflicted by violence and gang related problems. I truly believe that in order to break the cycle of violence we have to create opportunities for newer generations. At Jacqueline Suriano we do so by providing jobs for young adults that are looking for a better future for themselves and their families. At the moment I am starting an alliance with the World Food Programme (WFP) where a percentage of the profits of each Jacqueline Suriano bag will go to supporting a one-year program that teaches young adults in El Salvador different sets of skills. In doing so, young adults discover where their strengths lie, which will in turn help them find a job that hones what they know to do in order to create a better future for themselves. Looking forward, I do not only intend to donate money but also get involved in the program by teaching what I know as a way of helping young adults motivate themselves to find their passion and happiness.

Do you work with local/native artisans to design your bags?
I have my own workshop comprised of local artisans. I believe that the passion and craftsmanship of every artisan adds to the uniqueness and value of each bag we create. While every person that works with me has their own distinctive story that brought them to the craft, one in particular stands out from the rest: Hector’s story. Hector was one of my first apprentices. He learned everything he knows about craftsmanship and leather within six months of beginning his training, and has continued to show improvement and growth with new techniques. His enthusiasm and passion for what he does have made him an integral part of the team. One day, Hector shared with me his feelings of gratitude towards this job. It was an enlightening moment as I learned that having a rewarding job had kept Hector busy and away from the streets. As he opened up about his experience of living in an area surrounded by gangs and having relatives involved with these groups, it became clear to me that his risk of falling prey to El Salvador’s cycle of violence was very high. This conversation opened my eyes to the fact that providing Hector with decent work had allowed him to find happiness away from violence and allowed him to support his family and newborn son. This transcendental moment gave me the courage to stay focused on teaching and providing jobs to young adults that are willing to succeed in their search for a brighter future.

Working Conditions. (Are the manufacturers/artisans that are being employed being treated humanely, of age, and working in safe and acceptable conditions? Please explain)
Our workshop is located in a very centric and transited area of the city. This allows our employees to access their workplace easily via public transportation and work in a violence-free zone. As a startup, we are limited but we always try to keep employees happy by boosting morale whenever we can. We have the appropriate and updated equipment for work time, and other small conveniences such as a small food stand where we drink coffee and eat cookies on our daily meetings/breaks. We try to keep a relaxed environment, where we can laugh and have fun while working. I like to hire people that show passion for their work, eagerness to succeed and are seeking a better future.

Why did you choose this country to have your bags made and what made you decided to give back?
I was raised in El Salvador and was fortunate enough to have the opportunity of studying and working in the U.S. for five years. At the moment, my native El Salvador has been going through rough and violent times, but I truly believe that the country has a lot of potential if we could all contribute and surpass these problems. I decided to come back and support Salvadorans by keeping them away from the streets through generating stable jobs and helping them grow personally by teaching them part of what I have been so fortunate to learn. Moreover, I want to show the world the potential that Salvadorans have. When people think about El Salvador, I do not want them to picture its rampant violence problem, but its hardworking people. Taking as a motto Greg Boyle’s quote: “Nothing stops a bullet like a job”.

Bag Description
Jacqueline Suriano, 'Felipa' Style, pentagon bag, embossed cowhide leather and bamboo handle, $385

See other finalists from the 2016 handbag awards