Posted on 28 February 2020
“The fashion industry was built on secrecy and elitism; it was opaque. Transparency is disruptive - in the sense, it’s a breath of fresh air and a useful weapon of change”
The fashion industry has left an unfortunate mark on our planet over the years. The clothing industry has been known to over-harvest natural resources, create excessive waste, and undervalue the people working within their supply chains. Consumers are not only beginning to question the fashion industry’s standards, but are demanding change by simply boycotting companies with malpractices.
As a small non-profit brand (any proceeds we make are circulated back into our NGO’s Light and Leadership’s Women’s Empowerment Program), we’ve done our best to be clear with you. As a customer you deserve to know where your money is going, and who you’re supporting with your dollar.
Many companies are joining the transparency movement by publishing their supply chain details, and we fully support that choice.
We want to make it easy for you to make an informed decision, so we’ve created this blog for you to use as a tool to compare and contrast our standards to others. It’s a means to hold us accountable.
We’ll be sharing information about the fabrics we’re using, where they were made, who turned them into a finished piece and how much it cost to get to you. We’ll talk to you about the working conditions of our artisan partners, and what processes we have in place to make sure they’re comfortable and happy in their roles.
We’ve broken our deep dive into 5 main categories: Buying Practices, Value for Money, Environmental Information, Who We Are and Artisan Partners. As this is our first attempt at some of these questions, we acknowledge our holes in information. While we may lack a few answers, we see this as an opportunity for growth. It’s cool to know what you don’t know.
Lastly, before we dig in, we’d like to make one thing clear. We’ve put people at the center of what we do, their care and treatment as artisan partners is by far the most important aspect of our mission. While we are conscious of the fact that our environmental footprint could be lower, we think we’ve done a pretty awesome job in the area that we’ve decided to focus on - and that’s empowering women through offering fair wages.
We do the majority of our buying from Gamarra, one of the biggest textile markets in South America. When we’re in need of a fabric (Cotton, French Terry, Tela Andina etc.), we head there and prefer to buy from a handful of stalls we trust. We’ve been repeat customers for a while, and always love a good chat with the vendors (we’re hoping to do a vendor feature in the near future, so keep an eye out for that).
Trips are monthly, but can be more frequent depending on the artisans needs. However, forecasting ahead has really helped us make strides to reduce our number of Gamarra visits.
At times it can happen that our vendors are out of stock, and we need to source our resources from elsewhere. It can be difficult to choose who to work with. While we do our best to ask the right questions (ie. is this cotton grown local?), often we are greeted with the answer we want to hear as opposed to the truth.
Currently, we are looking to source a new supplier for our Alpaca Yarn. Say hello to Michell! They’re Peruvian, fully licensed in USD Organic, Control Union Certification, 100% Alpaca and Confidence in Textiles. They even offer some insight into their alpaca farming process.
VALUE FOR MONEY
To give you an idea of exactly where your money is going when you buy a product, we thought we’d break it down for you.
Percentage Breakdown of a $100 Daria Invierno Tote
Artisan Payment (Labor): 35%
- Going directly back to the artisan
- Comparable fair trade brand pays 20% of a comparable item for labor (Everlane The Day Square Tote)
Admin Costs (Manager Salary+Platform costs): 25%
- We have one paid manager who earns a monthly stipend according to normal Peruvian wage standards
- All of the rest of our team is comprised of unpaid interns and volunteers
- We also pay fees for monthly platforms, including our e-commerce hosting website Shopify and an email marketing platform Omnisend
Point of Sale Opportunities: 19%
- We love going to markets in the Chicagoland area to promote our brand more through in-person sales. Almost all artisan and/or craft fairs have an entry fee
- This also includes all visual merchandise materials (i.e. tags, frames of the artisans, etc.) for fairs
- All of the raw materials that go into making the product (i.e. yarn, zippers, lining material, leather, etc.)
Duties + Shipping + Transportation: 7%
- This includes shipping fees from Peru to Chicago where our storage room is located, as well as Peruvian duties we must pay for our products
- After this, we must also pay shipping domestic shipping fees if our online orders are over $60. We know as loyal customers many of you recently saw this shipping fee jump higher, and we want to remain transparent about this change (keeping in theme!). We’ve tracked our earnings over the last year and realized that the double shipping costs have seriously reduced our profit margin, and rather than increasing prices of all of our products, we chose to raise the amount needed to receive free shipping.
- Lastly, we place our local transportation to and from the markets and artisan houses here
- All of our paid promotions on Instagram and Facebook as well other platforms!
Currently, we’re not at the stage where monitoring our carbon emissions, water consumption and pollution is feasible. In part due to the fact that more research needs to be done at the base level of where we’re getting our raw materials from, and in part due to the time constraints (our 3 person team can only do so much!).
What we can account for is our artisans’ processes after the buying of the raw material. We use minimal energy in the creation of products as artisan’s work from home. There’s no transportation to and from work everyday, no large emissions-emitting factories, no constant machines running in the background. Products are either hand knit, hand pressed or finished using a sewing machine.
Our biggest footprint would be our transportation of products from Peru to the US. We have a stockroom in Chicago (as the majority of our customers live within the Chicago area), which is where we store products until they’re either ordered offline or taken to a market/ fair. Essentially this means we’re double shipping products, which is less than ideal, but the only way we can securely offer products online for our customers outside the Chicagoland area.
WHO WE ARE
Our Huaywasi team has always been fairly tight knit, consisting of our seven artisan partners, our Founder (Lara DeVries), our Manager (Jill Schnieder), and our Volunteer Interns (currently Julie James).
Lara, originally from the suburbs of Chicago, moved to Huaycán, Peru in 2009 after founding the Light and Leadership Initiative. She's passionate about the Huaywasi artisan project because it provides not only fair wages to women, but educational opportunities to advance their careers and personal lives. Having lived in Lima for almost 8 years, she just recently moved back to Chicago with her husband (and new baby Gael!)
Jill, from the United States, joined Huaywasi’s team in April 2018 as the Business Communications & Development volunteer, but is now the Huaywasi Program Manager. She has a degree in Operations & Supply Management and Marketing, and has been working towards streamlining operations.
Julie, joined the team in January of this year, but is originally from Vancouver. With a background in Theatre and Arts Marketing, she’s enjoyed working with the artisans and being a part of Huaywasi’s creative process.
Our team is eager, passionate, and always interested in chatting about collaborations. We encourage customers to get in touch, and to continue the conversation around what ethical fashion means to you. If you have questions regarding our process, reach out through email, Instagram or Facebook!
WHO MADE MY CLOTHES
Daria, Hermina, Elena, Guillermina, Nelida, Alejandra, Saida.
You can find those women on the front page of our website, they’re the creative team over here at Huaywasi. They’re a team of seven, and they live and work in our local community, Huaycan, located on the outskirts of Lima. They’re mothers, grandmothers, storytellers and artists. With every product you buy, you can find an individualized tag, describing who made your piece. They don’t go to work in a factory each morning. They print, loom and sew from their own living rooms or home workshops.
By creating their own schedule, it offers them the flexibility to run other businesses or simply spend time with their families. We’re dedicated to paying an hourly wage above the Peruvian standard, and to offering steady work throughout the entire year.
Transparency is a movement, and we’re only at the beginning. Keep pushing bigger companies to open up, because ultimately that’s the only way to make change. Show you care about the lives of the people behind your clothes, ask your questions and do your research. Choose to buy from companies that are doing their best to have a minimal impact on the planet, and companies that make it easy for you to make an informed decision.
Writers & Contributors: Julie James & Jillian Schneider