A small nondescript house in a middle-class neighborhood. Like all the houses, you’re presented with a high blank wall topped with barbed wire, and there’s another two metal gates behind this one. Like all urban neighborhoods in South America, one is always a bit on the defensive. On the ground floor of the workshop neatly-dressed Peruvian women are joining panels, doing quality control and making repairs. Others are ironing, looking for cones of yarn or packing boxes. On the upper floors are the offices, filled with color charts and swatches, panels of embroidery and piles of knitwear in varying stages of completion.
Owned by . . . . Hugo, Rosa, Pilar & Berhard Location . . . . . Peru
Craft . . . Alpaca Design and Production
Years of relationship . . . 27 Founded in . . . 1980's
Super power . . . Crushing All Obstacles with Niceness
We were introduced to Hugo and Rosa by a friend in the business in the mid-80’s. We had little luck at first, but they were such incredibly charming people I always looked them up and met with them, just for the pleasure of having lunch together. This went on for 3-5 years. At some point, they lowered all their prices, redoubled their product development and our business took off. The moral of the story: be nice!
Like most South American textile businesses, Manos involves two generations.
Rosa was the daughter of a Croatian immigrant who made wedding dresses in a provincial city when Rosa was a child. This got her interested in clothing and design. Hugo was a naval officer who traveled the world with the Peruvian navy then retired to work in the timber business.
In 1982 they started their company. They survived and grew through the turbulent 80’s, with its guerilla insurgencies and hyperinflation, and continued thriving through the “Fujishocks” of the 90’s, when then-President Fujimori instituted harsh economic policies at the behest of the IMF. (He is now in jail.)
In the past few years, their daughter Pilar and her German-Peruvian husband Bernhard have taken on the day-to-day operations, while Rosa continues to design and Hugo hangs out and… well, presides. As is often the case in this situation, the younger generation is quick to implement the new tools of business: website, skype, Facebook and computerized workflow and QC.
Things we talked about on the last trip: Their visit to Juneau. Estimates of what percentage of the national economy was based on narcotrafficking. Bernhard’s education in Germany. Whether or not to get seconds on desert at the incredible buffet restaurant they took us to. (That was a yes)
Every one of our suppliers has unique specialties that set them apart from others. This company specializes in the sort of high-end, super intricate work that others can’t or won’t do. Exquisite dresses of crochet pima cotton are assembled from dozens of small crochet rosettes, or insanely difficult jackets that are knit on a diagonal and then joined together with crochet.
For us, they use their expert finishing skills to make complex embroidered pieces, often reversible, whose joining and finishing has to be flawless. They often work in a very fine-gauge baby alpaca yarn, and though the panels are knit on a computerized loom, the embroidering and finishing are completely by hand. The result is fine, lightweight garments with a high-touch finishing.