When did you start up and why? Pachamama began in 1990 when David and I started trading the beautiful handicrafts we encountered while we were travelling in the Andean Mountains of South America. We started very small with a market stall and grew via more stalls, festivals and events and a shop.
What prompted you to launch the business? Following our success fellow traders wanted to sell our lovely 100% wool knitwear too and so our wholesale business evolved. In 1996 we started fairly trading handmade wool clothing, accessories and homeware made in Nepal. Since those early days we have developed strong and sustainable relationships with our suppliers who are small family run businesses. We have been loyal to our original philosophy on fair trade, ensuring continuous and solid economic and social growth for a large number of talented knitters and artisans and all the people involved in production.
What challenges have you overcome since the company's launch? There have been many along the way, worst of all the 2015 earthquake in Nepal which affected many of our knitters and suppliers on top of the challenges of everyday life they face. We have weathered recessions and of course the pandemic, which was tough for our shop customers and producer groups too, although our knitters were extra busy as they had more time during lockdowns and were often the sole earner in the family.
Tell us about your product offering. We specialise in handmade wool knitwear, from big chunky jumpers and fleece lined jackets to a wide collection of cosy hats, handwarmers, headbands, socks and more in bright, natural and earthy colour palettes. Designs range from classic cables and fair isle patterns to quirky animals, sure to bring a smile. We also make a range of woolly homeware including tea cosies, felt decorations and hot water bottle covers.
What are your most popular products? Our hats, headbands and handwarmers are the most popular – they are affordable and practical with wide appeal, but sales of jumpers and cardigans have been surging recently as customers want to stay cosy at home and turn the heating down. Animal designs are flying out and customers are loving our classic fairisle patterns and bright colours.
Have any styles taken you by surprise with their popularity? I wasn't sure how popular our Flock of Sheep accessories would be, but it turns out everyone loves sheep! And Highland cows, puffins, foxes and Ziggy!
How do you keep your designs fresh and current? Do you follow trends? We keep an eye on trends and are always introducing new designs inspired by the natural world, classic knitting techniques, colour and symbol.
What sets you apart from your competitors? Our knitwear is 100 percent wool on the outside and so is great value for the warmth this brings. We believe in slow fashion and each item is created with care and is made to be worn for years to come. Despite the seasonal nature of our business Pachamama is committed to providing year round orders for our knitters, ensuring them a regular and reliable income. Pachamama is a proud member of BAFTS - the British Association for Fair Trade Shops and Suppliers. We do carry stock, enabling us to offer a quick turnaround on replenishment orders in season. We are a small family company with a friendly team who offer great customer service.
How are you finding the current climate in the UK? Is it affecting business? It's challenging for everyone with the increased cost of living, but we have been extremely busy – we are finding customers are really appreciating lovely handmade things which are also practical.
How do you view the future of independent retail? I think independent retail will remain strong – we have some fantastic shop customers who work hard to make the whole shopping experience a real pleasure. It just isn't the same in a chain store and definitely not online! Since the pandemic people have enjoyed shopping locally and I feel they increasingly appreciate the personal service and the curated individual products that independent retailers can offer. Also, nothing beats being able to see and feel the quality of products (in our case 'in the wool') and try garments on for size.
Are you active on social media? How is this important for the business? I am a bit of a dinosaur but our younger team members are making sure we are now much more proactive on social media. It is increasingly important for business and is something we are looking to expand on.
What can we expect in the future from the company? Our range is always evolving, but we won't forget the old Pachamama favourites that customers keep coming back for. We are introducing more spring/summer hats and our homeware collection is expanding.
T: +44 (0)208 269 1550 W: www.pachamamaknitwear.com