We have finished our whirlwind tour of South America, including Ecuador, Peru and Bolivia. We delved into Lima’s burgeoning design scene and came up with new and exciting shapes and materials for 2014. Next year we will feature several silhouettes and solids in Pima Cotton and Baby Alpaca with a more fashionable European flair, as well as awesome new shawls, ruanas, and sweaters some of which may startle you! As you read this, we are in China developing new designs and shapes in silk and cashmere. Next stop: Bangkok.
On the Road in 2013
Our first stop was Otavalo, a small Indian town surrounded by lush green farms and towering mountains. Our suppliers in this Andean city in northern Ecuador are all indigenous people whose first language is Quichua. In Otavalo the men do not cut their hair: one of the last places in South America where this long-lost Inca tradition is maintained. Otavalo is where we source our hand-knit children’s sweaters, hats, and adult sweaters. This is the home of Segundo, a supplier we’ve been dealing with since 1984. Segundo’s father trained him as a weaver when he was a child. Like many Otavalenos, he speaks two languages fluently. Segundo can also get by in English because of his many mercantile trips to the United States. He has 8 children, the last four of which he has put through the university, though he himself has a primary school education.
Our original (and current) supplier Segundo, at his loom. Learn more about Otavalo here.
Lima, City of the Viceroys
After the pastoral beauty of Otavalo, Lima is a jolt of urban snap and opulence. Few people outside South America realize that Peru has one of the fastest growing economies in the world, and Lima’s streets are alive with new restaurants, new businesses and the choking traffic that always accompanies prosperity. Unlike its Andean neighbors Bolivia and Ecuador, Peru has a diversified economy of manufacturing, mining, petroleum, clothing, and of course, coca. It’s hard to calculate the effect of laundered drug money in any country, but Peru’s thriving legitimate economy means that the drug business seems far away, quarantined to its production zones on the jungled eastern slopes of the Andes.
Lima is a mecca of alpaca and cotton sweaters with a growing cadre of young designers who are looking outward as they seek a place on the global stage. Previously, designers would design for the local Lima elite, content to have a show and sell to a small circle of wealthy locals. Designing was a matter of local bragging rights, not global branding. Now, designers are using their country’s superb cotton and alpaca, as well as imported fibers like silk, bamboo and nylon to spin yarns that were never seen here five years ago. As factories spin new yarns designers develop new products. This year we are trying to develop new baby alpaca and Pima solids, as well as felted alpaca jackets and hats. Stay tuned!
Mother and daughter, Rosa & Pilar, work on developing a drawing into a prototype.
Our stay in Bolivia is short this year. Political and economic developments around the coca trade have whittled our suppliers down to only one. Click here to read about our last trip to Bolivia. Bolivia, which, with Peru, is the only other source of alpaca sweaters in the world, is at a significant disadvantage to its rival. Yarn must be imported from Peru into Bolivia with a complex mass of paperwork and duties, shipping to Europe and North America is nearly twice as much, and Bolivian products must pay a significant duty in the United States, while Peru is duty-free. We only buy here because the designs are so beautiful they can overcome these hurdles. Click here to see the Men’s Alpaca sweaters
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