When you put a piece of clothing on, do you think about where it came from, the material it's made out of, and the hands that brought it to life? Here at Paka, we're working to strengthen this connection. Going directly to the origin has been our focus since day one - we source our clothing from free-roaming alpacas, build our materials vertically, and work alongside 100+ Quechua women weavers to preserve indigenous wisdom through our Inca ID. That’s what has been inspiring Gisella Garate, Paka's Head of Peru, over the past year to ignite our Traceable Alpaca™ program across all our products.
Gisella Garate, Head of Peru at Paka
As Head of Peru, Gisella oversees all production and ensures that Paka's products are made with care - she’s extremely well-equipped to do so. Gisella grew up in Lima, and has spent over 20 years within the alpaca industry in Peru. From working with artisans to large yarn mills, she navigates production lines with knowledge and grace. She’s also the mother of two sweet boys.
Gisella laughs when she says: “It’s Gise, alpacas, and textiles.” Grounded in her purpose, Gisella has a rich history of working directly with Quechua artisans. Early in her career, you could find her hiking through the highlands with a backpack full of yarn to bring to a weaver's home. Seeing how people live throughout Peru during her travels inspired Gisella to do more for her country. She has poured her heart into improving the lives of Peruvians for years, and she sees traceability as the perfect way to do so.
Earlier this year, we embarked on a mission to create a system that could bring you to the exact farm coordinates where the alpaca fiber in your garment was shorn. Since that point, Gisella has been working tirelessly in Peru to roll out our Traceable Alpaca™ program across all Paka products. This involves establishing a new system to label the fiber all the way from the remote Andean farms, to the sorting processes, to the yarn mills, to the knitters, to the final packaging. You can imagine how complex it is!
What's traceability mean?
“Cuando sostenibilidad es tu misión en la vida, trazabilidad no sólo significa saber de dónde vienen los productos sino ser responsables, controlarlos , entenderlos y estar presentes en cada uno de los procesos desde inicio a fin.” - Gisella
Translation: When sustainability is your mission (“Why") in life, traceability not only means knowing where the products come from but it also means being responsible, controlling the impact of your products, understanding them, and being present with every part of the process from start to finish.
"Mi mayor inspiración es mostrarle al mundo nuestro origen, nuestra cultura y pasión pero lo mas importante es ayudar a todas las familias de alpaqueros, our knitters and weavers, quienes son el primer y mas importante eslabón de la cadena, a mejorar su estilo de vida y sus procesos mediante la capacitación, motivarlos a mantener el amor por lo nuestro, inspirarlos a seguir creciendo y mantener nuestra cultura." - Gisella
Translation: My greatest inspiration is to show the world our origin, our culture and passion, but the most important thing is to help all the alpaca families, our knitters and weavers, who are the first and most important link in the chain, to improve their lifestyle and its processes through training, motivating them to maintain their love for what is ours, inspiring them to continue growing and maintaining our culture.
Why is traceability so important?
Brands have power in the choices they make - each new garment created leaves a global footprint. When in pursuit of lowering costs or increasing the bottom line, many companies overlook the outcome of unsustainable and unethical practices. Alternatively, by focusing on nurturing key relationships with every supplier or manufacturer that touches our products, as well as understanding their lives and situations, we're able to ensure a) the highest standards are upheld in every part of production (from the alpacas and farmers through the finished product) and b) co-create to solve problems and create solutions together.
Traceability makes the origin of the garment fully transparent, allowing consumers to trace the fiber all the way back to the farm. The purpose of this system is twofold:
- Provide consumers with complete transparency and connection for them to make the best choices.
- Improve the lives of key stakeholders (i.e. alpaca farmers) involved in the creation of that product by emphasizing their crucial role in the process. Putting a spotlight on farming standards also ensures that future generations will continue in this direction.
Gisella works closely with AIA, the International Alpaca Association, to enact the highest farming standards possible. She knows how living in the areas of Peru that alpacas require, high up in the mountains, can be difficult because of the lack of amenities. She wants the alpaqueros' work to be recognized through traceability so they, too, can share in the pride of the beautiful pieces created with their fiber.
Spreading the mission
Implementing a traceability program has been no small feat. Gisella has spent almost a year consistently traveling to be onsite and bring traceable practices from our yarn mills all the way through garment assembly. By establishing a standard and requiring our partners to meet us there, Gisella is raising the bar for other brands as well as our own.
Gisella hopes to instill pride and patriotism in the younger generation by educating and guiding them through the best of Peru. In the same lane, Gisella advocates for ethical practices and traceability to show people that our garments are not just products mindlessly manufactured for buyers. Each garment has a story behind it, with culture, effort, and constant innovation.
Gisella's hopes for traceability
“I want people to open Paka and know this is not just a manufactured garment, this is a story, and hands have cared for this piece with love,” says Gise. Along with our entire team, she will continue to shift the industry through her efforts to build out transparency throughout the textile industry, inspiring others. Moving forward, when you receive gear from Paka, you will be able to trace the garment all the way to the farm the fiber is sourced from. With our Origins program, you’ll be able to see the geolocation and, if you want, visit the farms. We hope to continue to create new opportunities to get to know the wonderful people behind Paka and the place they call home. If you want to go to Peru and retrace the steps of your favorite Paka socks, or unravel the story behind your go to Paka sweater, we’ll be happy to connect you with the farm where your garment was sourced.
We appreciate you supporting us on this journey to improve the connection to where our things come from.
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