So much of this business has been built on chance meetings. With intention and focus I've been able to find who I need and always at the most unexpected time, and unplanned ways.
This was the case with Etnia, our manufacturer for all our woolen goods. I had been in the north of Ecuador for two weeks, really looking intently for manufacturers and artisans who I could work directly with and who could interpret my designs. This was really the reason for my initial trip. I had been frequenting a new coffee shop, which had only opened a week prior to my arrival and it was owned by two young Americans; Andra & Josh. It was an anomaly in this mostly indigenous town, and I was happy to have found it.
After many days of conversation and happy greetings with Josh, he casually mentioned that the guy who owned his building; his landlord, also had an export business. I have to be honest, I didn't jump out of my chair since their were many export businesses in this town, producing product that could not be further from what I wanted. But, I know that so much of finding what you need is a numbers game, you just have to keep following leads (which is really part of the fun for me), so I took down the number and made arrangements to meet Fernando later in the afternoon.
Fernando picked my friend and i up in his car, and then took us to his factory, secured behind a high, rusted, corrugated metal fence. We walked through the open, empty courtyard with weeds growing from it's uneven rocky surface to his office and showroom up three flights of stairs. Before I could enter his office, I had to bet past his big, hairy guards (his Burnese dog!).
I might stay that those stairs were my stairway to heaven. what I found at the top of those stairs was pure joy. Beautifully hand made jackets and coats. Meticulously knitted scarves and hats, shawls, wraps, socks and gloves. It was design heaven. That first trip I bought a few pieces to take with me and use for the past year, so I could test the quality and wear of their work. I was very happy.
Etnia have a small factory on site where they keep all their yarn, inspect all their designs and do some finishing touches as well packaging. For the actual production of all Love Nomadic knitwear pieces they employ local knitters who are paid a fair daily wages, consistent with the law, and they work from home. The yarn and patterns are all delivered to the artisans and than picked up to bring back to the factory for final touches, inspection, packing and shipping.
A fair trade manufacturer, with high quality standards, employing local and making beautiful pieces. I knew I had found my tribe.