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Animaná, the UN-Rewarded Argentine Social Enterprise that Works with Patagonian Fibers

Both Animaná and the NGO Hecho por Nosotros are Adriana Marina’s initiatives. She grew up in Patagonia admiring high-quality fibers, whose process demands a lot of work from overlooked local artisans.


Photo/Animaná

Adriana Marina grew up in Patagonia, “where nature became my greatest guide.” She was brought up in between sheep and natural fibers, observing them and admiring their processes and the cultural value they imply. “I witnessed firsthand how these high-quality fibers —which demand a great deal of work— were, and still are, exported in their raw form, without any local process to create added value. I also saw how strategies for MSMEs, cooperatives, and technological, logistic, and operational tools were lacking.”

In 2008, she built her own textile company Animaná through the brand B Corp to make those unique Patagonian fibers valuable worldwide. Then, she created the NGO Hecho por Nosotros to connect and train artisan textile communities in Latin America. It aims to improve their business models and help them reach world markets. Fifteen years later, the United Nations recognized Adriana’s initiative.


Photo/ Animaná

The Woman behind Animaná

The now-entrepreneur is actually an Economist. She got her PhD in Convergence, Inequality and Growth to look for tools that would strengthen and integrate value chains, spot inequalities, and fight any barriers related to the lack of knowledge or opportunities. These scenarios usually affect grassroots —such as producers, artisans, MSMEs, and individuals— the most.

“Patagonia made me appreciate nature, its cycles and its richness. Being able to wear natural fibers and traditional artwork made by local artisans is something really special. It is also amazing seeing how other communities connect with nature, with their home, and with other people,” she tells Tiempo.

Luxury

“The handmade work of artisans and their patterns seems to me the one true luxury we have in this world. It saddens me to see how cultural traditions get lost, how we let go of so much knowledge and secrets we could learn,” she states.

Andean artisan communities face a series of challenges, which include the lack of training and technical resources, the exodus to the cities —where local traditions and culture get lost—, the absence of supportive networks that could help them add value to their fibers (e.g. llamas, vicuñas, alpacas, or guanacos), and the little monetary reward they get for these products.


Photo/ Animaná


Adriana defines Animaná and Hecho por Nosotros —which has a consultative status at the UN— as “two transformative tools for society that show we can create solutions to problems regarding employment, gaps, and education through innovation and creativity. Technology is a promising tool to help people and nature.”

Adriana’s products mix natural camelid fibers from the Andes with ancestral design techniques. And while she owns a store in Ciudad de Buenos Aires, she succeeded in foreign markets such as Paris, where she opened a store in 2016 for her luxurious products. Every Andean community involved produced two times and even three times more by using renewable resources and applying a circular economy business model.

Ancestry

Adriana talks about “achieving a systemic change in the textile and fashion industries. To transform them into a force that can benefit everyone. We believe this can be done by promoting and enhancing a Creative Economy for Sustainable Development and making it a key tool for a more sustainable, inclusive, and egalitarian future.”

She highlights the importance of technology as a tool for connecting economically marginalized artisans and MSMEs and giving value to their wisdom, sustainable techniques, circularity and co-creation. She also mentions direct financing as a way for reducing the current financial gap and blockchain as a way to ensure traceability and transparency in production. Other elements she emphasizes are training, education, research on food, water and waste, and the storytelling behind each product.


Photo/ Animaná


Artisans use (and respect) resources and ancestral traditions. At the same time, they seek to earn a living in communities that are at a disadvantage, even when the textile industry gains millions of dollars. In this model, women play a central role, given they encompass 85% of weavers. If they get paid fairly for the job done, they can provide for their homes, open a bank account, gain independence, and improve their self-esteem. This also reduces youth migration to urban areas.

The UN

Adriana’s project was mentioned as a successful case in a recent report made by the UNEP (United Nations Environment Programme), “Sustainability and Circularity in the Textile Value Chain: A Global Roadmap.” It was chosen from a pool with other 14 brands and organizations, such as the Ellen McArthur Foundation and the Hirdaramani Group. Animaná and Hecho por Nosotros were the only Latin American brands/NGOs praised for their successful implementation of circular business models and practices.

Next Wednesday, July 19th, it will take part in the UN’s High-Level Political Forum. In this event, both entities will show their achievements and participate in a debate on possible actions to promote transparency and traceability in the textile industry. Since 2008, they have collaborated with the UN in investigation groups on sustainable development goals. In 2016 Hecho x Nosotros gained a consultative status in the United Nations ECOSOC.

“This achievement allowed Hecho por Nosotros and Animaná to have our own events in the official calendar and carry out different high-level international forums with other leaders worldwide. We were among the first to understand the most urgent topics within the fashion industry. We want to raise awareness on the issue and encourage other organizations, businesses, governments, and entrepreneurs to rethink this system and create different solutions for it.”


Photo/ Animaná


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