Company DIOSA recently launched convertible Maya bag
A St. John’s company co-founded by a mother-and-daughter duo is banking on style and sustainability to turn heads and generate sales for a newly launched backpack for women.
The Maya collection is the creation of DIOSA designs Inc., the brainchild of Kim Hickman and her daughter, Katie Thompson. The pair have strong business credentials between the two of them, but are new to the fashion and accessories world. Kim owns Business Portals in St. John’s, while Katie has a background in marketing and communications.
The company started three years ago when Kim identified there was a need out there for backpacks designed specifically for women.
“The whole concept was how can we support women,” explained Hickman. “So, we would create this beautiful, luxurious, really high-end, multi-functional bag for women with sustainable materials.”
“My mom brought up the idea to me, and I don’t think I really took it seriously until we started talking to other women and realizing that there was a gap in that market,” added Thompson. “Almost every woman we talked to could not say that they had the perfect backpack and they didn’t have something that could carry them through their days.”
The Maya backpack’s interior lining is made from recycled plastic bottles (equivalent to 17 water bottles per bag), and it also uses vegan leather.
“It really is about having impact, and having social impact, environmental impact,” Hickman said.
They brought on board designer Leanne Avery, a Newfoundlander now based in Montreal who Thompson refers to as “their anchor,” to create the Maya backpack. The backpack is versatile, as it converts into a messenger bag to sling over the shoulder. It has stow-away straps, a USB-charging port, can easily attach to carry-on luggage and is water repellent.
The new collection also includes a clutch bag that can be accessorized with an optional shoulder strap and coin purse.
“We went through about eight prototypes to land at the current collection we have right now,” said Thompson. “It took quite a bit of research to get where we are today, but we really feel like we’ve done our due diligence in reworking our models, talking to women and understanding what they really need in a backpack and create something we’re really proud of.”
DIOSA was inspired by Hickman’s work with Mayan women in Guatemala, a placed she’s travelled to with her daughter many times. The word ‘diosa’ means ‘goddess’ in Spanish. Some proceeds from the business are currently supporting a women’s empowerment centre in Guatemala, and Hickman wants to eventually spread that support to women in other countries as the company grows. There are also plans in the works to employ weavers in Guatemala to produce handmade DIOSA accessories.
Their goal down the line is to make fully-compostable products using natural materials.
“Right now, we’re looking at cactus that’s made into a leather-looking material. We’re probably going to look at that for our next bag,” Hickman said, adding they’ve also explored the potential use of pineapple leaves, cork and apples.
Knowing the fashion industry contributes a lot of waste to the Earth, Thompson said it’s important for DIOSA to find new ways to produce durable and sustainable products.
“We didn’t want to create something that people would have to buy again the next year,” she said. “We wanted to create something durable, that lasted, and that they can eventually send back to us that we can break down and stop this cycle of fast fashion.”
With this in mind, the company is participating in the upcoming Green Friday on Nov. 27, which encourages the public to avoid Black Friday sales and instead buy nothing or only purchase sustainable products. DIOSA is also currently applying to become a Certified B Corporation — a designation reserved for companies that balance purpose and profit through strong social and environmental performance. It would become the first to do so in Newfoundland and Labrador if successful.
The backpack is in production now and won’t be available until January. The focus for now is on small-batch production. In the mean-time, the company launched a Kickstarter campaign earlier this month aiming to raise $25,000. As of Wednesday, it had raised close to one-third of that total — almost $7,800. If successful, money from that campaign will support work to create the next DIOSA collection.
Andrew Robinson is a business reporter in St. John's.