Meet Alba and Blanca, Two of Aravore’s Talented Makers3 years ago
Since we launched nearly a decade ago, every piece that is crafted by Aravore is signed by the person in our Atelier who made it. Aravore was in fact conceived as a way of challenging the way fashion is produced by focusing on the human dimension behind the art of fashion making. Our efforts went into making the supply chain as transparent as possible and on taking responsibility and employing directly –rather than sub-contracting- every person that makes each Aravore piece.
So, I was delighted to be asked to write this post and introduce you to two of the incredibly talented ladies that make up our main Atelier in Asuncion, Paraguay. The work that the Fashion Revolution campaign is doing to raise awareness about the human faces behind the labels is incredibly important and we are very proud to be able to support it by sharing a little bit of our story and the people behind it.
Revitalising Traditional Techniques & Approaching Manufacturing from a Different Perspective
When we launched our very first capsule collection, back in 2005, we presented 10 monochrome knitwear pieces made out of unbleached organic cotton. Given that there was no colour variation, we had to make sure that each piece had something to offer in terms of texture and style.
Basic hand crochet is a skill that is generally available in Paraguay, where our main Atelier is based. However, only three or four types of stitches are generally known and used locally to make more or less the same patterns and types of products. We wanted to change that and innovate by bringing new materials, designs and adding new dimensions to this traditional technique.
At Aravore, we make kidswear and we wanted the pieces to have a touch of nostalgia –and crochet was perfect for that! But we also wanted the products to feel contemporary. So, over the years we have been very experimental with materials, colours and shapes, always aiming to create something fresh and surprising. We mixed some hand crochet detailing with knitting in order to add variety to the stitches and because of the lacey quality that crochet has, that immediately makes a piece look and feel delicate and more ethereal.
Our approach to manufacturing is also a little different from a standard workshop or factory floor –where each worker generally specialises in a small part of the process. We chose instead to empower each individual maker by giving them the tools and knowledge to be able to make a whole piece from start to finish. This might not be the best approach in terms of productivity or speed, but the daily innovation that goes on in our Atelier would not have been possible otherwise. Indeed, each one of the knitters and seamstress have had a role in making this possible, by actively contributing with their ideas and talent to the continuous experimenting that goes on in our studio. Below, I’d like to introduce you to two of them.
Introducing Alba, Aravore’s own crochet magician
In the short clip below, you can see Alba’s amazing hands at work. Alba heads the Aravore team of crochet technicians at our main Atelier in Asuncion – and you can see why! She is simply incredible and her technique, impeccable. But the best thing about Alba is her energy and enthusiasm.
Alba is 34 years old and the mother of a lovely little girl. She learnt to crochet from her mother, as most girls would have traditionally done in Paraguay. Since joining Aravore in 2006, Alba has also been trained in house in all other parts of the process of making clothes, from design to quality control, learning about materials and understanding why it was important for us to choose the organic yarns that we use at Aravore and the special care that working with these materials requires. However, her “first love” is still crochet:
“What I love most about crochet is that it allows me to put together and build whole garments from scratch. I like the feeling that as I crochet, I am also shaping and putting together a whole piece.”
Alba, Aravore’s head of crochet
There is indeed something very tactile and emotional about knitwear and about creating a piece of knitwear. We get attached to our knitwear in a way that we don’t always do with other pieces of clothing. Perhaps this is because there is something slightly raw and basic about knitwear that brings us closer to the origin of clothing, by emphasising textures and the yarns that are used to make it and this in turns, brings us closer to the hands of its maker.
Meet Blanca Lila, Aravore’s Head Seamstress
Blanca is a 41 year mother of two wonderful kids and her family’s sole breadwinner. She joined Aravore to assist with the cleaning of our first Atelier back in 2006. Back then, Blanca had no background in textiles or fashion, however she was keen to learn and we encouraged her to take advantage of the free courses we offered in house. She took our advice in her stride and took every single in-house course that we offered. She showed so much interest and applied her enthusiasm so successfully that she is now fully proficient in all aspects of clothes making from pattern cutting to sewing and hand finishing. In fact, she has worked so hard and so purposely at improving her skills that she is now our head seamstress!
“I begun by learning about the washing and ironing processes that come at the end of the production process. Then I started learning about fabrics, yarns and the different sewing machines we had at the Atelier. Once I was able to sew and put a garment together, I begun learning about pattern cutting. And I want to keep on learning! I want to continue developing my pattern cutting skills and learn also some new skills. I want to continue going forward, always.”
Blanca Lila, Aravore’s Head Seamstress
Over the last decade, Aravore has trained directly over 40 women in different aspects of fashion making, from design to knitting, pattern cutting, couture sewing techniques and quality control. Many of them are still working at Aravore, others have gone on to open their own Ateliers and even to launch their own brands. Aravore is structured and run as a self-funded social enterprise and every penny made through the sale of our products goes back into the company to pay for fair wages, social security benefits and training of all of the ladies at our Atelier and satellite ateliers that we also support.
During the first trade show we did back in 2005, people were incredibly moved to find that you could learn a little bit about how each of our pieces was made and who made it, simply by looking at the labels. We hadn’t fully realised till then, what a novel concept this was and how detached we had become from understanding what goes on behind the products we purchase.
Today, we are encouraged by the fact that, a decade on, the concept of identifying the person behind each garment in the label is no longer such a novelty. However it is still far from being the norm and we hope that perhaps in another decade it might become so. Till then, we will continue to contribute with our efforts -even if at a small scale- towards the achievement of a true fashion revolution, one where we have reconsidered and understood the real value of the materials we use, where we have rethought the methods we use to manufacture and have begun to fully appreciate the skills, effort and aspirations of the people behind the labels.
*Yanina is the Co-founder, Designer & Creative Director of Aravore. She is also an Associated Consultant for different organisations including the London College of Fashion and is a Non-Executive Member of the Board of “A Todo Pulmon”, Paraguay’s largest re-forestation NGO. To learn more about Aravore’s story, visit www.aravore.com.