This post is also available in: Spanish
Susana Davila is a Panamanian fashion designer inspired by the Gunas. When she was 25 she traveled to the San Blas Archipelago and her life changed. She learned about the culture of the Guna and even learned how to speak a little of their language. Formerly a lawyer, she realized her passion was in design and a drastic career change was followed by a success story.
The idea started as a hobby and grew into a business. Molas were the inspiration for a line of women’s accessories, starting with headbands, and later on with hats and handbags.
The Mola is a beautiful form of Panamanian art that fashion designers are now showcasing locally and internationally, “a client of mine took a hat to Korea and they offered her money to purchase it on the street!” says Susana.
The story goes that the Mola was created out of necessity. Before the arrival of the Europeans the natives women were bare-breasted and would paint their bodies. The Spanish conquistadors apparently made them cover their bodies, so they found a way to emulate their paintings using fabric. It became a form of art that is passed from generation to generation.
A group of three artisans works with Susana, as well as a group called Women of the House of Wisdom in the community of Morti, a distant community in Darien. This group is supported by Chispas de Amor a socially responsible business that connects rural communities with global markets.
Hats can be purchased in Guayabera a la Medida in Multiplaza Mall, in the shops of Sheraton Hotel, Riande Granada Hotel and JW Marriot Resort in Buenaventura or in Tocumen International Airport. Orders can be placed online in