The Designer: Matilsha Marxuach
Puerto Rican artist Matilsha Marxuach is the Founder & CEO of concalma LLC, and the Senior Designer of concalma handbags, totes, backpacks, and home goods.
Marxuach grew up in the great Caribbean outdoors, always surrounded by animals, a sportswoman who often went fishing with her dad, a memory which she treasures to this day. Nevertheless, Matilsha also loved music and dance, training in classical ballet, which introduced her to creative discipline and wardrobe design. Tilsha, as her close friends call her, became acquainted with the fashion world very early on, working as a child model. She learned about fashion photography and, as she tells it, “fell in love with scissors”, adapting existing garments into new pieces.
During high school, Marxuach spent summers as an exchange student in Europe, venturing out on her own to fairs and markets, a solitary student of humanities and geography. After graduating from the Rhode Island School of Design, she traveled extensively again. Her desire to carry things comfortably became an obsession during her long walks, testing the first prototypes of bags made using remnants, exploring a fashion equation that would one day lead her to the concalma line. Matilsha worked at organic farms in Australia and New Zealand, painting murals during her travels throughout the South Pacific. Eventually, she returned to Puerto Rico, where she acquired and operated an organic mountain farm, where her two daughters were born, ran a ceramic studio, and taught ceramics at the School of Fine Arts in San Juan.
Combining design, ecology, and collectivism, Matilsha Marxuach created concalma in 2006, upholding local manufacturing and fair trade as key to sustainable communal resiliency: the ability to create and recreate, adapt and readapt, thus evolving successfully. Her original inspiration came from the maximalism of Caribbean culture and global street cultures as they informed her formal design training. Her passion for sustainability and aesthetic functionality led her to launch the concalma brand, offering high quality, fair trade fashion products. [Read the concalma story at: ]
In 2017, Matilsha Marxuach became the Director of the Utuado Distribution Center, on behalf of the Center for the New Economy, coordinating the logistics for implementation and distribution of basic goods after Maria, a category five hurricane that devastated Puerto Rico. She also launches a social practice project designing, manufacturing, and distributing free mosquito nets for communities in need. [For more information, please read: Hyperlink] That same year, she founded Proyecto Opciones as an artistic project, seeking to create spaces where adults with special needs can participate in art and theater workshops, ecological initiatives, and engage in safe socialization, as well as advocating for institutions to be more inclusive, Opciones has also provided jobs to artists as workshop leaders, partnered with schools, galleries, and community centers, and been awarded grants by the Segarra Boerman and Miranda foundations.
Matilsha Marxuach acknowledges a number of important mentors, among them: curator Michelle Marxuach, businessman Raomal Perera, and artist Ernesto Pujol. Marxuach has received numerous awards, such as: 2014 winner: “Microentrepreneur of the Year” by Citi Foundation and the Puerto Rico Community Foundation; 2009 Finalist, Guayacán, Inc., EnterPRize Business Plan Competition. Marxuach has also participated in international conferences and events such as: 2015 H-3 Conference, Tech and Innovation, Social Entrepreneurial track, http://h3conference.com; 2014 Ted x Talk, Santurce PR, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xuPEZJwOO7s; 2014 Wanted Design Fair, New York; the Iberoamerican Biennial, Matadero (Spain); the Bronx Museum of The Arts, Concalma Pop Up, New York; the AMO Studio Pop Up, Soho, New York.