Back in Ecuador

I’m back in Ecuador, sourcing and producing for Fall/Winter 15/16. I’m late in the season to be doing this since it will be cutting it fine to have goods delivered in time for the holiday season. But, I have faith and good people working for us.

Last year was my first trip to Ecuador and I came with the intention of seeking out artisans to buy items directly, see if my own designs could be interpreted and to check the quality of work.  My trip last year was a rugged adventure of schlepping bags, following dead end leads, rummaging through dusty local shops, speaking to locals and expats and walking and talking to anyone and everyone.  I am now confident in the knowledge that if you get outside and keep walking, something is bound to happen.

Slowly…oh so slowly, doors started to open and the artisans that I was hoping to find began to appear.  To be honest, what I found and, who I met was better than I had hoped.

So I returned to Ecuador on Monday, armed with designs and a mind half filled with hope and half empty for magic. It was a short 5 hour direct flight from JFK to Quito where I met two phenomenal women. I sat next to a woman named Jacqui who is the CEO of Kopali organic chocolate, she was headed down to Ecuador, with another staff member, to spend the next 10 days the mountains working the cacao farmers and testing and tasting new strains of organic cacao. She great to talk business with, since Kopali just experienced a huge bump in the road in their distribution and almost toppled the company, so it was inspiring to sit next to the woman who at the helm of re-building the business. I love speaking with entrepreneurial and spirited women who are forging their way forward and kicking ass.

From Quito, I took a 2 hour ride north to a local trading town called Otavala, situated at the foot of three volcanoes. If you're headed North, there are few ways to get there. First is by direct taxi for about $60 (2.5hrs) or you can catch a bus into the main station in Quito (approx an hour and $3) and then catch a bus to the town you want to go to (approx $2.5). 

I opted for the taxi since it was late afternoon and I was alone and tired.

The taxi driver didn't show any signs of fatigue as he drove in the only way people do in South America; forward and single speed: fast. He also talked at the same pace.

AS we drove onward, we crossed over the ‘middle of the world’ but the driver was going too fast for me to snap a pic. We passed a local playground that looked like something Walt Disney might have sketched on his way to dreaming up Disneyland. It was impressive and I found myself imagining the world with more playgrounds like that. We would have a lot of happy kids, and maybe more well-adjusted adults.

I was arriving near sundown and to my left, the sun was setting behind a large volcano, casting deep shadows on the rock wall to my right. We drove through a canopy of tall, lean Eucalyptus trees and I became nostalgic for my childhood and the long country drives I took with my family in my birth country; Australia.

Travel always brings up the best memories for me.

The beginning of these kinds of trips are always met with uncertainty and I'm excited to see what unfolds during this week, I don’t mind being met with surprises…sometimes.

And I certainly don't mind being met with these views.