How did animaná begin?
It all began with one woman’s unwavering determination to offer an alternative to conventional production and consumption patterns. Adriana Marina, founder and the driving force behind animaná, was born in Patagonia, Argentina, where she reared sheep and guanaco, and coexisted with communities of Tehuelches mapuches. Adriana learned first hand about artisan culture and the natural fibres they use. After studying Information Systems and Economics in Buenos Aires, Adriana moved to Salta, where she lived for ten years, directing an international program with the EU, Project ALFA . She researched themes of social and economic convergence, inequality and poverty in Argentine regions, thereby becoming closely acquainted with Andean artisans and their handicraft techniques.
Adriana then moved to Europe, to take up a scholarship for a PhD, examining the growing inequality between regions of Argentina. Together with a group of like-minded people, Adriana successfully promoted hand-crafted products in Spain. Realising the true socio-economic impact of this venture gave her the conviction to lead her own social project. Having developed fifteen years of valuable experience, Adriana founded animaná in 2009.
What challenges has animaná encountered?
Since its inception, animaná has faced many challenges. Some of the issues associated with ethical fashion initiatives include poor quality in design, lack of transparency in the supply chain, and inadequate consumer communication. Another issue for Latin American enterprises is a difficulty in accessing European markets. In addition, the production, processing and finishing of products made from camelid fibres and other natural materials are often not certified, despite being completely organic.
And how has animaná overcome such challenges?
Resolving these issues has required the efforts of various social agents. With this in mind, the Foro de Moda Etica Latinoamerica (Ethical Fashion Forum Latin America) was founded. The forum unites professionals, academics, designers, commercial organisations, foundations and artisans in order to change the Latin American fashion industry from within. It encourages alliances between ethically-minded fashion stakeholders to support local sustainable development and encourage a responsible sector.
How does the company work in partnership to further its aims?
Animaná itself is a trading partnership based on dialogue, transparency and respect. The company seeks greater equity in international trade by working under fair trade principles. Animaná gives training workshops, encouraging the communities it works with to sustain themselves by implementing their ancestral practices in new ways. Animaná also collaborates with Hecho x Nosotros, a non-profit organisation that works with artisans across the length of the Andes to recover their expertise, adapting it to the requirements of fashion forward customers.
The communities that animaná works with in the Andes are largely made up of small-scale, family-run farms. Because the fibres the communities produce are highly sought after worldwide, they often sell them to intermediaries who end up gaining the most profit in the supply chain. Together with other organisations, animaná provides a trade network that bypasses the middlemen thus giving added value to the production activities of these families.
Animaná also works with suppliers who employ production processes that are certified by respected third parties. Together with the government and other organisations, the company is developing local certifications that can be introduced to small-scale producers. Moreover, animaná helps various enterprises with their corporate social responsibility (CSR), by facilitating agreements between cooperatives of farmers and those that produce the fibres and the final handcrafted or semi-handcrafted products.
Which materials and techniques does animaná work with?
In terms of raw materials, the brand works with the natural fibres of the Andes and Patagonia. Fibres obtained from camelids, such as llamas, guanacos, alpacas and vicuñas, are highly valued for their softness and durability and animaná endeavours to protect all camelid species. Animaná also works with silk from the Andes, native organic cotton, merino wool and chaguar, supporting the revival of traditional ecological techniques such as manual spinning and the application of natural dye pigments. In addition, the company supports the re-cultivation of a native Peruvian cotton variety that was grown for some 5000 years until it was replaced by the white cotton production of the nineteenth century. The production, processing and export of all these natural fibres are vital for the development of local communities.
"Animaná calls all professionals in the industry to work within a network approach
Another project that animaná is currently involved with includes the recovery of natural dyes in the Andean region, which were devastated by the use of anilines. Natural dyes are valued because they are non-harmful to the skin, relatively inexpensive, and environmentally friendly. Animaná works with Incalpaca, a Peruvian enterprise which promotes the recycling of alpaca fibre products, to help promote strategic design as a way of giving waste material a second life. Furthermore, they support the development of Arts and Craft Centres, across South America. The aim is to improve the quality of design in the ethical fashion sector by inviting designers from around the world to work directly with rural artisans, blending traditional expertise with contemporary design to create timeless pieces.
And does animaná work with external designers and consultants to push the boundaries of great design?
Related to the Arts and Craft Centres project, animaná is currently working with talented textile designer, Mathilde Georget, on behalf of UNESCO’s Equity for Applied Arts programme. Mathilde works closely with various Andean communities to produce items that are born out of an exchange of ideas, cultures and knowledge.
With regard to design, as well as image and marketing, animaná has also received support from international fashion consultant Dominique Peclers. In 2010, Dominique visited the Andes, thus taking the first steps towards working in alliance with organisations, universities, cooperatives and Peruvian, Bolivian, and Argentine companies. She became familiar with the working possibilities of the artisans there, before developing a line of products for the European market. Thanks to her commercial eye and invaluable expertise, many Andean artisans have started to create, out of traditional triangular shawls, beautiful contemporary blankets that are being sold in Japan and Europe today.
More recently, and following the sustainable design strategy, animaná has welcomed a new talent, Suzie Hall, who is a former member of the design team at People Tree, London. Aside from its work with international designers and consultants, another key to animaná’s commercial success lies in its decision to offer bespoke commissions to its customers.
Which trade shows has animaná exhibited at?
With the intention of reaching the European market, animaná has taken part in fairs committed to sustainable fashion, including the Ethical Fashion Show(2009 and 2010), the Ethical Fashion Forum’s Source Expo (2010) andMaison&Objet (2011).
Looking to the future, what message would animaná give to the fashion industry?
Animaná calls all professionals in the industry to work within a network approach. This implies the commitment and professionalism of an interdisciplinary group to enable a dialogue between wisdom and formal knowledge, and between market mechanisms and new alternative patterns of production.