Saturday, May 08, 2010

Carry's Blog has moved!

My blog has moved! Please go to http://www.panamas.co.uk/journal

Monday, December 14, 2009

My blog has moved!

My blog has now moved to: http://www.panamas.co.uk/journal/

Friday, October 30, 2009

Fiesta thrown for me by our Panama Hat association!

We spent most of this week in Cuenca, Ecuador, travelling several hours each day on winding roads to see our two panama hat co-operatives in the region.

Sara and Mark spent the first few days working on Quality Control and finalising ribbons and trims for our SS10 collection. I didn't get to our main Panama hat association until Wednesday as I had to make a presentation to members of WFTO Latin America in Quito. Several Latin American members are starting to implement the Sustainable Fair Trade Management System and I talked about the tools we had developed to assess our producer groups.

I arrived at the hat weavers HQ to find the courtyard filled with the record-breaking 'biggest hat in the world'. Very impressive and HUGE! Around 100 weavers had gathered, all in their finest clothes, and were sitting around the giant Panama hat, weaving as they waited for the day's festivities to commence.

Sara, Mark and I were shown upstairs to a large meeting room, filled with our Panama hat weavers, along with the mayoress and local dignitaries from the town. The surprise ceremony for me started with the Ecuadorian on Wednesdaynational anthem. I stood at the front as guest of honour, looking out on all these women and realising the huge responsibility which I bear in getting enough orders to ensure that they earn enough money to feed them and their families each year. They rely on me for 95% of their orders.

After a short, taped 'musical interlude' which was quite amusing, it was time for a poem written by one of the weavers to Senora Carry. Next, it was time for the presentation of a plaque by the mayoress of the canton in appreciation of my work in the community. Very moving and was trying to hold back tears. Then realised that both Mark and Sara were finding it all very emotional as well! After another musical interlude, it was a song about hat weaving dedicated to me and then a glass of very sweet bubbly. Just as I thought it was all over and I could get to work as everyone moved downstairs, another celebration started in the courtyard. Several dances by small groups of weavers from different communities, one involving dancing around fireworks and another with one boy dressed as a soldier and another dressed as a pig who had obviously got the day off school for this special occasion! Then another really beautiful song by Zoila Aleman, a weaver proudly sporting the glasses we had bought for her a few years ago. Finally, some loud music started playing from speakers and Sara and I had to get up and dance with the dignitaries for about 10 minutes - not easy at that altitude! Finally, the celebration drew to an end and we were taken through to the dining room where Guinea Pig was served. Delicious crackling!

It really was such an incredible honour to have this ceremony thrown for me and the weavers and community had obviously spent a long time preparing for it. Now I have to do my part and try to increase our Panama Hat orders for 2010 so that the weavers all have enough work for next year.

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Monday, October 19, 2009

Our Panama Hat fibre is both sustainable and organic

I had a really fascinating trip down to the coast of Ecuador this week to meet the community who supply the Carludovia Palmata fibre (also known as paja toquilla) for our Panama Hats.

Mark (our Marketing Manager & my husband) and Sara (our Quality Manager) drove to a small community of 3000 people about 3 hours south of Manta and then it was an hour off road up into the mountains to reach the plantations of the paja. The community has been working hard to protect their area of land and to increase sustainability and biodiversity in the area. They have protected an area of 5600 hectares and are now seeing a lot more birds and animals in the area such as toucans, armadillos and monkeys. The plants also help to improve the air quality and the producers were keen to emphasise that the work they are doing is providing oxygen for the world. They are hoping to make the area a Patrimonio Cultural in the future.

A new paja toquilla palm can't be harvested for 3 years as it needs to produce runners and baby plants before it can be harvested. After this period, the paja can be harvested every 30 days as it is a very fast growing plant and takes just a month to reach full height (around 12 feet) again. The paja is grown in 100% organic conditions and so we should look into the possibility of organic certification for the fibre in the future.

During our walk through the forest, we saw this huge tarantula and so we definitely stepped a lot more carefully after that!

It was so encouraging to meet the producers of paja for Pachacuti's Panama Hats and to be able to document the sustainability of the production process. Pachacuti has been certified by the WFTO against the Sustainable Fair Trade Management System and we really can say that Pachacuti's Panama Hats are not only sustainable but are actually bringing about positive environmental impact within the community.

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Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Felt Hood Production

Pachacuti works with a felt hat making workshop in northern Ecuador. In a village which had over 30 hat making workshops in the early 1990s, now only half a dozen remain. This is principally due to the decline in wearing of traditional dress which has meant that they have lost their local market and Pachacuti's work in designing new styles of hat is therefore vitally important for the survival of the workshop with whom we work. In addition to producing for Pachacuti, we also do private label work producing felt hats for companies such as Brora. As well as designing new styles, we also rework the classic felt hats such as the Bowler, the Trilby and the Fedora.

In addition to ensuring that our production process complies with Fair Trade standards, we have undertaken to ensure that our raw materials are produced in as ethical a manner as possible. We were therefore really pleased to have a full tour of the felt-making factory which produces the 'hoods' which are then made into hats by our Fair Trade producers.

The Health & Safety and environmental standards were extremely high, all water was being put through a filtration system and the workers all made far more than the minimum wage. Any leftover wool from the felting process is recycled and given to artisan upholstery workshops to use for padding chairs.

It was fascinating to watch the production of the hoods from the raw sheep's wool as a lot of the machinery used is over 70 years old and the process has changed very little over the years.

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Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Paris Fashion Week

Just back from Ethical Fashion Show during Paris Fashion Week. Loved being in Paris, as ever, enjoying fantastic food and hospitality from friends in the city.

Exciting to get some orders from new Japanese customers, one of whom has two of the most stunning designer boutiques. Also some leads for collaborations with top designers, so exciting if these opportunities materialise.

Now a quick turnaround, battling colds, to prepare for Ecuador, Peru and Bolivia trip - leaving Monday.

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CNN Presenter wearing Pachacuti Panama

CNN presenter Zain Verjee filmed at Estethica, London Fashion Week,
wearing our new African Queen Panama hat for SS10.

Monday, October 05, 2009

WFTO Fair Trade Certification

Finally... several months since completing our audits and being the first organisation in the world certified against the Sustainable Fair Trade Management System, I have heard from the World Fair Trade Organisation that they are going to allow us to write on our products that Pachacuti is Fair Trade Certified.

It isn't quite a 'label' yet, but is a really positive step as these will be the first products in the world to state that they come from a Certified Fair Trade Organisation where all business, from the supply chain through to packaging and environmental issues, have been externally audited. All labelling to date has concentrated on the raw material. Although Fairtrade certified cotton is undoubtedly important, in the fashion industry the added value comes from the design and manufacture of the garment. High ethical standards in garment manufacture is undoubtedly of concern to consumers given the reaction to recent reports from War on Want about sweatshop labour at 15 High Street stores (visit http://www.lovefashionhatesweatshops.org/Disgraced )