Founder of Hecho x Nosotros and animaná B Corp
Why are the SDG’s so important for the fashion industry?
The textile industry is so vast in terms of the people it encompasses, the magnitude and variety of the issues, and the tremendous discrepancy between what producers and consumers know about business practices, that issues to resolve seem innumerable and unresolvable. The paradigm is prejudicial throughout the supply chain, with challenges that touch on unskilled labour, environmental degradation, lack of governmental regulation, and economic injustices.
The change can be immediate, but we have to stop our current way now. The reality is that there are other ways of working, maybe more expensive or with less profit, but we have to understand that endless consumption is not viable and it causes a lot of damage. In consuming countries, the problem is an excessive waste of clothes. In the producing countries, it is the exploitation and the exhaustion of resources.
It cannot be that a company pursues economic growth without paying attention to its impact on the environment and society. We not only attempt to reach out to the artisans but instead create products that respect the environment together. It is really important to go back to the roots. It is a powerful message and a necessary one.
How did you realize the importance of empowering grassroots action?
I grew up in Patagonia where I witnessed how precious fibres were exported to Europe, dirty and unprocessed, wasting their added value due to technical, logistical and operational challenges. Over the years, as a trained economist, I researched and understood the injustices of a supply chain that did not create opportunities for artisans because they lacked training, skills, and fair market opportunities. With the enormous effort that is required to obtain fibre of the best quality, taking up much labour and much time, it seemed a waste that it was not processed locally.
Today it is still a little bit the same. As such, local jobs are lost, as well as the culture. This realisation convinced me to support the communities that I knew, meet with them and create spaces for design. It is not easy to work with artisans and with small local companies. There are a series of lessons that we have learned and that we share so Latin America does not turn into a sweatshop without a link to the luxury market of sustainable fashion. So that we may have great fibres, great design and skilled producers.
Why do you think that collaboration is such an important tool?
When I first embarked on the creation of the NGO Hecho por Nosotros, operating in conjunction with Animana, I knew that I didn’t want to work only as an advocate for change, raising awareness, and educating consumers about the injustices in the textile industry, but rather I wanted to work on creating concrete solutions to complex market failures. But this complexity demands a systemic change that can´t be made by one actor.
The solutions have to be co-created by multidisciplinary and multicultural minds and require the active involvement of every actor involved in the value chain, including the consumers, that never appears to demand to know or to investigate what's behind their clothes. The world of fashion needs to transform together.
What have you learnt from the experience of building your own fashion b-corp, Animaná?
The learnings I’ve had with Animaná are enormous. It was a pioneer brand in the way of doing business in many ways. First, it developed an alternative brand with products that sought to maximize the wellbeing of the artisan’s communities that act as our providers, rekindling their cultural traditions, maximizing their socioeconomic development, and contributing to their sustainable development through training, education, and employment creation. Second, when Animaná started implementing this paradigm shift 10 years ago, the movement did not have the same level of international support and appreciation that it does today, so we started independently, creating our brand, identity, and market space completely on our own, limited by scarce resources and governmental support. Third, as I said at the beginning, the production process and industry has their own set of inherent challenges that necessitate diverse and profound solutions— unskilled labour, a disconnect between customers and suppliers, geographic isolation, lack of machinery and funding options, etc. There were multiple bottleneck challenges that we had to address to establish Animana before we could even work on issues further down the supply chain.
Since its creation, Animaná has not only grown commercially, but has continued affecting systemic change in the fashion industry through activities in education, awareness, research, and socioeconomic development. We truly work to implement a paradigm shift in the textile/ fashion industry, making it more environmentally sustainable, just, and socially responsible.
Through activities with international organizations the calibre of the UN and ITC, advocacy organizations like Ashoka and Fabric of Change, and public and private institutions, we are truly pioneers in putting the complexities and injustices of this multi-billion-dollar industry on the table, and start a dialogue on potential solutions and business alternatives. Animana represents so much more than just a fashion brand. Our products encompass an entirely different philosophy and relationship with different stakeholders and resources.
How is Hecho por Nosotros helping to spread those learnings and to build more resilient circular supply chains?
Hecho por Nosotros was founded in 2008 as a means to employ the same ethics and practices employed by Animaná within a new business framework that reaches far beyond the regional level. We realized the potential of the Animaná business model to inspire and act as a blueprint for systemic change within the global fashion market.
The diverse, international team at Hecho por Nosotros works to create intellectual and material content focused on sustainability and aimed at every corner of the fashion market, including designers, producers, consumers, leaders, educators, and geographically isolated artisans. It is committed to the social and economic advancement of Latin American artisans and producers of natural fibers through supply chain transparency, sustainable business development, and far-reaching industry activism.
Nowadays, Hecho por Nosotros is in the process of creating a public digital platform aimed at empowering isolated artisans who are primarily focused in Argentina and other areas of Latin America by connecting them to the global fashion market. The main objective is to create new access routes for economic development, cultural exchange and education. The platform will include blockchain technology that will allow the public to track organic fibres from the shearing of camelids (pecuña, guanaco, alpaca, llama) and merinos to the end consumer, establishing transparency and rapport between consumers and producers. The platform will create a more transparent value chain within local artisan communities, which will impact and foster the development of local SMEs and, as a result, integrate transparency into the global fashion market. New knowledge accompanying market transparency will provide consumers with an incentive to redirect their spending towards more sustainable producers. The platform will promote higher incomes for artisans, a fair and transparent camelids textile chain, and better practices based on the use of a tracking system. These advancements will ultimately lead to higher standards of living within local artisan communities and prevent migration to urban areas and loss of local tradition and culture. Once a more inclusive market is established, designers can utilize and collaborate with indigenous artisans who hold the skills and knowledge necessary to afford a sustainable future.
Hecho por Nosotros, through this digital platform as well as its many other efforts, will continue to reinforce, propagate and perpetuate the business model that is exemplified within Animaná.