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Meet Souf, the brand of luxury accessories made from recycled wood

By Cynthia Ijelman

Jul 31, 2019

Buenos Aires - Salvadoran Sofia Avila is the person behind Souf, a brand of sustainable handbags and accessories made from reused wood discarded from old houses. These luxury products are handmade in El Salvador under strict guidelines of sustainability and fair trade. Souf products are available for sale on online fashion platforms and the brand recently landed in Miami, United States. FashionUnited spoke to the founder of the brand about its history, the marketing of its products and the development of its project.

The beginnings of Souf

After studying Graphic Design, Art Direction and Communication, Avila had fashion on her mind. So she decided to study at Parsons in New York. There, she first came up with the idea for wallets made of recycled wood: for her graduation project on Accessory Design she made the first prototypes, although they were only renders at the time. “The inspiration came from my family, I inherited coffee farms that were part of my grandfather's and my father's business, there I learned that the coffee plant has a useful life, it reaches a point where production is no longer so high and the coffee stick has to be removed. I wondered what could be done with that wood, thinking of it as a resource we already had, and since my idea from the beginning was to use recycled wood, it seemed to me that it could work to create accessories. My grandmothers interest in semi-precious stones also inspired me, so the result is a little bit of a mixture of all these things.”

After graduating, Avila remembers that she stayed in New York working for different designers until she realized it was time to launch her own project. Five years ago she made the first prototypes working remotely with artisans based in El Salvador. "With time I saw that it was difficult to work with them being so far away. There were trust issues mostly and I had to convince them that my project was serious and the work would be consistent. Therefore I decided to move back to El Salvador, where I grew up."

Fashion and wood

Developing the products was a long process for Avila, she says there was a lot of trial and error. "We realized that coffee wood was not ideal, because the trunk is very small. It also proved difficult to combine the world of wood with the world of fashion, so it was quite a learning experience to see how we could get to the final product. We finally achieved it about two years ago."

After discarding the idea to work with coffee plants, Avila came across another type of raw material: "I met a man who buys lots of old houses, so I talked to him and asked him to provide me with old wood from those houses. Now we are working with cedar that is almost 100 years old. It’s like a jewel, a real gem, and we are using a more sustainable varnish. This wood was the missing ingredient, to complete the product with the characteristics that interest me.”

Avila does not work seasonally, the company releases new products little by little. "Sometimes there are very small scraps of wood and I don't like to throw them away so I'm thinking all the time about new models in which we can use these scraps because the idea is not to have waste and to be more and more sustainable."

Marketing

The brand sells online through various e-commerce platforms with a focus on sustainable fashion. On top of that, Avila manufactures products to order and now also has a presence in a store in Miami, United States.

The wallets are handcrafted with wood and stones and are therefore considered luxury products. "Among the stones I use are black onyx, malachite, lapis lazuli and jasper, among others. If they ask me for something special, I can also do it, I have used turquoise and rose quartz, for example", explains Avila.

Prices for Souf products range from 600 to 2200 US dollars and Avila said she is working on a collection with products at a slightly lower price range as well so that her products can reach a wider audience.

Global Fashion Stories shares inspiring stories from fashion entrepreneurs around the world, as FashionUnited believes fashion professionals can inspire each other, no matter who they are or where they are.

This article was originally written in Spanish by FashionUnited Argentina
editor Cynthia Ijelman before being translated into English.

Pictures: Souf