Imagine yourself in the highlands of Peru. Among the Andes, spectacular surroundings embellish an undeniably rich cultural history. For close to 7000 years, the Inca civilization has been living off the land, farming cotton and raising Alpacas – animals long-treasured as a vital source of garments, fuel, hide and meat. Now in modern day Peru, the Alpacas continue to be a source of cultural and economic well-being for Peru and its people. They serve not only as a livelihood, but also as an opportunity for sustainable development and connection among farming communities.
For over a decade, Alternative has partnered with our vendors in Peru to source the softest, most luxurious Pima Cotton. This year we deepened our vendor relationships by traveling to Peru to source the finest 100% Baby Alpaca Wool, creating a collection of Peruvian Alpaca Wool Capes and Ponchos.
In partnership with the Sustainable Alpaca Network, Pacomarca, we journeyed to alpaca farms accompanied by filmmakers and photographers. We documented our discoveries in Peruvian textiles and learned a few key lessons about why working with Alpaca farmers and Pacomarca is so important to Alternative:
- Pacomarca provides support for the sustainable development of alpaca raising. It seeks to generate benefits for all those involved in the alpaca production chain, and especially for the thousands of rural families who make a living from this resource in the harsh conditions of the Peruvian highlands.
- Pacomarca understand that the alpaca fiber needs to be refined in order to stay relevant in the marketplace. So, they keep an individual registry for each animal in order to track fiber type. The yarns used in our Alpaca Capes and Ponchos are multiple fibers in differing colors spun into one mélange yarn, giving each color additional depth and texture. Then, added softness comes through additional garment washing.
- Pacomarca shares their sustainable strategies with other farms in the community. “As part of our social work, once we have good results, we share our improvement processes to be reproduced in communities that are interested,” explains Alan Cruz of Pacomarca.
Alternative president and chief merchandising officer Erik Joule traveled with the group to Peru and shares his thoughts:
I feel passionate about our partnership with Pacomarca as their approach is focused on the human impact and the positive aspect that supporting the commerce of Alpaca wool has on the overall rural Peruvian community.
Pacomarca has started a program of housing modernization, complete with solar heating systems, to ensure families do not have to depart the land they love. They use some of the funds generated by their business to fund the housing project and are working with the Peruvian government to blend private and public subsidies.
This type of innovative thinking in business continues to reinforce my belief that business can be an enabler of social change and betterment as well as a source for economic wealth.
Written by Shannon Flaherty Randall
Photos by Britt Caillouette and Andrew Lee