Isasuma brings Colombian charm to downtown Easton – The Lafayette
Just off the circle in the center of town, there’s a new face in Easton’s retail community. Isasuma, which sells handmade accessories, was born from the work and travels of Easton locals Manuel Fresneda, Andrea Rincon and Curt Weihz.
After visiting family in Colombia and receiving compliments on her fashion upon her return to the United States, Fresneda decided to start bringing items back to Easton to sell.
“He started bringing little things—earrings and sometimes a few bags every time he went to Colombia, and he noticed how people really liked it,” Rincon said. “It was like that for many years. Once or twice a year I helped him sell at street fairs. We would pull out a table and we had a few pieces, and that was the end of it.
When the pandemic hit, Weihz knew it was time to move the business to an online space. With a background in photography and graphic design, Rincon started working on the website. They started with a personal website, then added an Etsy shop.
“It exploded out of proportion. We were selling incredible amounts of face masks that were all handcrafted and also giving visibility in the other items we had,” Rincon said.
The Etsy shop made hundreds of sales, further convincing the trio to seriously push the shop.
At Winter Village last year, the exposure of customers visiting the group’s stand led them to ask question after question about where people could find their store. Isasuma only existed online at the time; this burst of interest catalyzed Rincon and Fresneda to open a physical storefront in town.
The store is now located at 228 Northampton Street, just above Easton Outdoor Company and across from Sogo. It’s run by Rincon and a few new hires who help with inventory, photography, and bookkeeping.
Buyers have also been drawn to Isasuma recently because of its connection to the excitement surrounding Disney’s new movie “Encanto.” Mirabel, the film’s main character, carries a mochila bag, prompting families to seek out similar ones.
Mochila bags were also bestsellers before the movie. They are a product of the indigenous Wayuu culture of northern Colombia. According to Rincon, the bags attract people’s attention for many reasons: bright colors, durable material and unique design. What matters most to Rincon is the tragedy that surrounds them and the steps Isasuma takes to stop it.
Hundreds of thousands of Wayuu people live in a region of Colombia called La Guajira. Despite being right on the shore, the area is extremely dry; the Ranchería River, once their greatest source of water supply, is now used to supply a controversial coal mine.
“For several decades, they have been dying of hunger, malnutrition, thirst… They live in front of the water but they cannot drink this water. It’s salt water and drinking water is contaminated,” Rincon said.
Despite indigenous protests, a dam was built in 2011 that diverts even more water to the mine. Part of Isasuma’s mission is to provide drinking water to these Wayuu.
“Without being able to travel, I discovered the possibility of donating water, and that’s how we launched our GoFundMe campaign. It’s an ongoing campaign, and we have a fundraiser once a year. It’s coming in April,” Rincon said.
A portion of Isasuma’s sales goes directly to buying water for Wayuu communities. You can donate to their GoFundMe or shop on their website to support Isasuma’s efforts. Last year they raised enough money to deliver 150,000 liters of water.