On a sourcing trip to Peru in 2018, we were fortunate to meet Marilu and her team. We currently partner with Marilu's company for the production of the Felted Alpaca Slippers and have been working with Marilu to introduce a new collection of lifestyle products that will launch later this year.
Marilu is the founder of a manufacturing company based in the region of San Borja. The mission of Marilu's company is to help artisan women grow up and give them the power to change their future. Marilu's dedication to ethical production practises and a sustainable supply chain are the foundations of her company. Partnering with female artisan groups living in remote regions of the country where few opportunities for employment exist, Marilu's partnerships with global brands empower these women by helping them become self sufficient. A natural entrepreneur, Marilu describes the possibilities of business and exporting in Peru as endless, saying "we have the capabilities, we have the skills, our limitations are all in our minds!"
10 Questions with Marilu:
Tell us a little about your background. What led you to start your own manufacturing business?
Thank you very much for the opportunity to tell you a little bit about our company. I am passionate about working with my hands; already in college I had the opportunity to research about the Peruvian pre-Columbian iconography and how it was reflected in the crafts. It is here where my passion for craftsmanship grows and, in this search, to connect Peruvian artisans with the world, is that I decide to form a socially responsible company. We present to the world fashion accessories with unique designs handmade by Peruvian artisans.
What does ethical production mean to you?
For me, ethical production is to believe in a more conscious consumption where the quality of the materials and the manufacturing process take care of people and the environment.
We value the emphasis your business places on preserving traditional craftsmanship and manufacturing techniques. In your opinion, why is it so important to preserve these techniques, specifically within the regions that you operate in, in Peru?
For us to preserve our crafts is to preserve the identity of our country. This ancestral knowledge of the techniques that the artisan communities have, allows us to constantly restructure the crafts and at the same time preserve the tradition.
Many products that are produced through your company are made in collaboration with artisans in remote regions of the country. How do you ensure ethical practises are followed?
The artisans who collaborate with us are located in economically marginalized areas such as Lomas de Carabayllo, on the outskirts of Lima; in the town of Laraqueri, Puno and in the town of Sonccomarca Cuzco. To ensure that ethical practices are followed, we take care to coordinate with the leader of the artisan community so that he or she can maintain these practices such as fair payment, respect and tolerance.
Visiting remote regions in Peru taught us how important it is to employ local female artisans in these regions as job opportunities are scarce and many come from vulnerable backgrounds. What are some of the remote regions you are currently operating in? How does your company manage employee retention, training and development in these regions?
The artisan communities located in these regions are our special suppliers, they have the facility to work from home, they are not employees of the company. We, with the support of the leaders, train them in new techniques and new materials according to their requirements.
Your company’s commitment to sustainability throughout the supply chain continues to impress us. Can you highlight a few of the key sustainability practises you implement in the business pertaining to product design and development?
Our sustainability practices start from the selection of materials to the management of our waste. That is why we focus on using environmentally friendly materials, we optimize the use of materials so that we generate less and less waste. We have managed to measure our carbon footprint as an indicator of our progress.
What is your hope for the future of the textile/fashion industry in Peru? What do you hope will change and what are you most proud of?
I see that the textile industry in Peru is increasingly focused on sustainable practices. I admire the quality of workmanship of our artisans and I hope that we find new ways to reduce our waste with the help of technology.
How do you come up with new idea's for your products? What inspires you?
I like to read a lot about world trends in the scientific, artistic and technological fields. I like to delve into the richness of craftsmanship of the past because I admire how they solved their daily needs with simple but unique design elements.
What is your vision for your company's future?
I see my company innovating in a responsible way to lessen the impact on the environment and to be a means to empower women artisans so they can change their future.
And finally, what would you like to communicate with the people who purchase products manufactured by your company?
That behind the development of each product there are craftswomen who bring benefits to their families. That the materials used are environmentally friendly.