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Designer Files
The Passion Behind Pashen Collection
07-09-14
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Passion for fashion might be a catchphrase that sums up most designers’ raison d’être. But Magaly Fuentes-Sagan has a passion for people, as well. The Pashen Collection founder has first and foremost built strong relationships with the artisans who make her clothes, and these relationships are the heart of her brand.

“When I love something or someone, I’m the type of person who wants to learn every angle of it,” says Fuentes-Sagan. Her brand name is  a portmanteau of "shen," which means "spirit" in Chinese, and "passion," which she describes as the driving force in her life. “I worked in several areas of fashion to test the waters, find my niche and learn as much about the industry as I could.”

Fueled by the desire to be immersed in the field, Fuentes-Sagan has worn many hats. After stints working as a merchandiser at Saks Fifth Avenue, an apprentice with a couture bridal designer, a fashion publicist and a product manager–she realized something was missing. So she packed up her things, sold her house and moved to a small fishing village in Nicaragua to work at a surf lodge. Once she made the decision to really investigate what she wanted to do with her life, things seemed to start conspiring in her favor. She landed a writing gig at Eco Fashion World, and she would eventually go on to become the website’s owner and editor-in-chief.

“After returning to the States from Nicaragua, I spent months contacting various artisan groups,” says Fuentes-Sagan. “I have built such strong relationships with the people I work with, and we have learned so much from each other that it brings new meaning to that saying about the importance of the journey over the destination. Even several years into this, from the birth of the idea to today, Pashen is just in its infancy, with so much room for growth. I am beyond excited about the prospects. The strength of the ethical fashion community revolves around relationship building and working together.”

Each and every piece produced by Pashen Collection reveals the connections Fuentes-Sagan draws between her artisan collaborators, passion and spirit. Scroll down to discover the story behind each piece in her own words.

Ethical Fashion by Pashen Collection

1. KNIT SHORTS
"I designed these when it was winter, and I really wanted a cozy pair of shorts to wear with my off-the-shoulder sweatshirt and slouchy knit boots. [Ed. note: Fuentes-Sagan lives in Florida.] They can be worn so many ways. These are made in Peru on an artisanal machine operated by an artisan."

2. INDIGO IKAT SCARF
"There is quite the journey and story behind the design of this piece. I went back and forth via email for months with the American anthropologist who leads the artisan group in Thailand that made these for me. I combined traditional techniques with some modern twists.

The design is a combination of shapes, which include hearts (love), diamonds (the diamond shape represents protection to Native Americans), nāga (serpent deities; the artisans shared with me that, to them, it symbolizes protection from evil). These scarves are hand-dyed with indigo, and the ikat process is so detailed and simply beautiful. Each one is a little different and truly a work of art."

3. HEART STRINGS WOOL SCARF
"If you look closely at the pattern on this, [you'll see it consists of] hearts. There were three rounds of swatch samples made for these because I wanted the hearts to be obvious, and I wanted them in a very specific size. These shawls are oversized and so cozy, you just want to live wrapped in one."

4. CROCHET SHORTS
"These were inspired by peacock feathers and doilies. They were handmade by an artisan in Peru. I literally cut and pieced together doilies to show them how I wanted the pattern to work on these. There is a lot of detail. The artisan did an amazing job translating my vision."

5. CROCHET DRESS
"This dress is a beautifully pieced-together puzzle of some of my favorite dress elements. The sleeves are influenced by one dress I own, the neckline by another, and the empire waist by yet another. The open crochet look gives the dress a lot of versatility because it can be worn right over a bikini in the summer or with a slip dress with sandals on warm nights. It can even be worn over a sweater dress in the winter."

6. CHERRY BLOSSOM SILK SCARF
"I designed the motif on this scarf, and each one is printed on organic silk in Cambodia. The artisans also hand-sewed the delicate hem on these scarves. The cherry blossom represents the beauty and fragility of life. It’s something close to my heart. Cherry blossoms are a reminder not to take things for granted and see life as a gift every day."

Tanwi Nandini Islam is an author and journalist living in Brooklyn, N.Y. She contributes to Ethica, Elle.com and Fashionista.com. Her debut novel, Bright Lines, was published by Viking/Penguin in 2015.