Suzanna James, Knitwear Designer in Peru
Cardiff based Knitwear designer Suzanna James is travelling to Peru to work with a community of Alpaca owners in order to raise the profile of their textile work and boost the local economy, she tells us about her project in her own words.
Over the past two years I have been working on this project in the background, hoping that it would come to life, and suddenly it has and I’m so excited to tell you about it.
On 28th October, I will be getting on a flight to Cusco in Peru, to go to work with a charity there, Salto Peru, on the beginning of anew textiles makers cooperative. I will be travelling to the remote village of Antauta (An-tow-ta), a seven hour drive away from Cusco and 4150ft above sea level in the Andes, to go and work with a community of Alpaca owners.
What’s the problem in Peru?
Right now, if you’re not in the know about this already, Fashion and Textiles industries are responsible for poverty traps worldwide and vicious circles curtailing human and animal rights, and sustainable practices for the environment. The fashion industry has been labelled as the second most harmful industry worldwide, and steps are being taken left, right and centre by fashion revolution activists, designers and companies all over to try to stop this in its tracks and provide a new ethical and sustainable alternative. It is a part of this big picture where Peru comes in. Peru’s alpaca industry is the largest exporter of alpaca fibre in the world, and it's playing a nasty role in human and animal rights issues. Alpaca yarn producers and makers in these rural communities are stuck in a poverty cycle, and their only way to make a living is to sell their alpaca fleeces for next to nothing, to companies who will not pay the producers a fair wage for their fibre and work. I am part of a team, working alongside British Alpaca Fashion here in the UK, who will be travelling to these communities to deliver resources, equipment, and teaching to the yarn producers and makers in these communities.
Here’s how we’re going to help fix the problem:
The beginning of The Antauta Knitters
I’m working with Andrea Gonzalez, from the charity Salto Peru. Andrea is an Oxford Masters graduate in Economics, originally from Peru, and an expert in strategy for social enterprise.
Together we are making a way to give voice to and a platform for the community, and this will be the beginning of a longterm relationship in raising the profile of their textile work.
I will be the ‘advanced party’ for the project and my job will be to run design workshops, hand knitting and hand spinning workshops for makers in these communities, who will be part ofThe Antauta Knitters cooperative.
Expanding their skills base will give the members of this cooperative another chance at making a living and will provide an escape from their poverty cycle. We will be designing products that will be made by hand and will be the beginning of a process of bringing a fair income to the makers for their work, leading to ethical and sustainable Peruvian manufacture of limited edition ‘Antauta Knitters’ products that can become part of my existing knitwear brand, Suzanna James Knitwear. We’ll start small, with products like beanie hats, and provide a selling platform and fair wages for their work. This is the type of partnership that is fundamental in order to revolutionise textiles product manufacture and push forward ethical production.
It is this kind of project that makes me feel alive. At the root of my career in textiles, and the reason that textiles and fashion grabbed my attention so wholly in the first place is the desperate need to marry ethics and aesthetics, to create a textiles and fashion industry founded on ethical practice, rather than exploitation as the true cost of fashion and textiles. I truly believe that this hands-on contact with the communities is the key to the revolution of the fashion and textiles industry.
If you feel the same, please give anything you can. Right now funding towards my travel expenses is the most pressing need, to get this project going I will need to make multiple visits to Peru and I won't be able to do that without your help. Check out how you can be involved on the right, do you want one of the first beanie hats? This project can have your name on it. I'll be sending everyone a thank you photo card and/or their selection of thank you gift. Please donate anything you can, the ocean is made up of drops.
Cardiff based knitwear designer and maker Suzanna works wih only the finest, certifed natural, organic and ethically conscious yarns to create her contemporary designs.