Threads of Peru began with the inspiration of professor and designer, Adam Collins, who challenged his class of design students to discover how can they could use their skills to generate sustainable change in the world. Captivated by the Peruvian weaving tradition, they made contact with Ariana Svenson, an Australian expat and co-founder of the ethical trekking agency Apus Peru. After much fundraising and an 11-student delegation to Peru, the two parties created what has become Threads of Peru, a nonprofit social enterprise that seeks to provide economic opportunities to indigenous artisans of the Sacred Valley of Cusco through fair trade sales of their textiles, tourism and by preserving an ancient artisan tradition.
Threads of Peru began as an extension of an already existent working relationship between Apus Peru and the communities through which some of their treks pass through, knowing that these families were very skilled in their weaving capabilities, but lacked the resources with which to improve their skills and access to sustainable markets. Their mutual partnership is based on an understanding, whereas the Threads of Peru team works to provide sustainable employment opportunities through the placement of orders for textiles, while also working together to better comply with international demand for their goods.
Having been created essentially out of the socially-conscious commitments of Apus Peru to the well-being of the Quechua communities, Threads of Peru and Apus still continue to work very closely together in providing support and orientation for community engagement activities like weaving and dyeing workshops for tourists and travelers. The Threads team also works side-by-side with inhabitants of the communities, many of which are direct ancestors of the Inca empire, to develop long-term programs such as sustainable tourism (turismo vivencial or turismo comunitario) in the form of homestay houses and/or treks through the region. Through their homestay program, traveler’s can participate in an authentic Andean experience while also helping to contribute to the local economy and helping to improve rural development for the local people.
I recently caught up with Dana, an employee located in Cusco, to ask her what makes Threads of Peru different than what is already out there. Her answer is simple, “we strive to be sustainable first through sales, both wholesale and retail. It is with more sales that we are able to purchase more products, which generates more income for the weavers, who then weave more products that we purchase outright and turn into more sales.”
These gorgeous and one-of-a-kind pieces can be found online, through the organization’s website and Ebay, through wholesale to national and international retailers, in partnership with various eco-commerce sites and, on a very small scale, from the small retail space that Threads of Peru maintains at their office in Cusco. The organization is also rapidly expanding, with the inclusion of a new product line through collaborations with other fair trade artisan organizations as well as launching new projects with Apus Peru to offer tours that support sustainable tourism in Peru and in rural villages.
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