STELLA PARDO, a pioneer brand for ethical luxury
When Cinthya and her mother left Peru in the 1990’s, they discovered social aids in France. When growing up, she noticed that in comparison, there aren’t any social assistance in Peru, where a lot of people are stuck in slums and where single mothers don’t even get maintenance allowances for their children. So, when she launched STELLA PARDO in 2009 with her mother and aunt, our designer decided to lend a helping hand to marginalized people living in Peru: single mothers, residents of slums, elderly people and victims of domestic violence. The choice of Cinthya surprised most of her customers. Indeed, at the end of the 2000s, it was quite rare to see designers considering disadvantaged people as their main concerns: fair trade was still a vague concept for the fashion industry.
Right from the beginning, our designer has based her brand on three main pillars: creating jobs in order to boost a country’s economic development, empowering women and respecting traditions. As she realized that manual work was the best way to ensure work for as many people as possible, she decided to recruit a large network of knitting entrepreneurs, who handmade her sweaters, cardigans, trousers and other items for her collections.
Crochet is one of the rare techniques that cannot be replicated by an industrial machine. Each knitter is therefore irreplaceable and essential to STELLA PARDO. When our artisans knit their pieces on machines, they only use manual machines, which require muscle power.
We regularly check the working conditions of the artisans and of our suppliers’ employees according to criteria from the International Labour Organization. Our team travels at least once a year to India and Peru to monitor safety, ventilation, light, space, and conviviality in the workshops, but also our artisans’ well-being. Our designer took time to speak one-on-one with each of our artisans and employees and wrote down their comments. We want our collections to be produced and sold with joy and respect, from Paris to Lima and New Delhi.
Women empowerment: our core mission
STELLA PARDO is a brand created by a woman for women, with garments essentially made by women. More than 80% of our knitters are women, and this percentage does not come from a vacuum.
When our designer, her mother and her aunt organized their production line for STELLA PARDO, they spend months talking to single mothers in slums and analyzing their situation. There are no nurseries in the slums and insecurity is high, which is why most women cannot leave their homes to work in factories or workshops outside the slums. The three founders of our brand had therefore a brilliant idea: and if all these talented women were entrepreneurs instead of employees? With such a status, they can knit from their homes, look after their children, decide of their timetables and of the number of knits they want to produce. We advise our knitters to work together with other knitters, so they can socialize and help each other.
We believe that consideration for people is essential in fair trade. Working ethically is not just a matter of fair remuneration. It is also about listening and caring. We offer moral support to all our knitters, who have sometimes suffered physical or emotional violence. We are here to support them and help them to success. They often consider Beldad, Cinthya’s aunt and the person in charge of all the production in Peru, as a reliable confidant who doesn’t judge them, just like a mother.
Our designer spent a lot of time explaining to our knitters how international trade works, what a custom tax is, the importance of the internet when selling a product, how international competition works, the emergency to have ethical production chains, and what are Western countries’ quality requirements when it comes to high-end fashion. Thanks to this knowledge, our entrepreneurs- knitters can decide alone the price of their knits and be responsible for their own success. Of course, such a system is based on a trust-based relationship between our brand and our knitters.
STELLA PARDO is not a charity organization. We are just pushing these skillful women to realize that they have all the ability to manage their small businesses and their budgets. Our greatest pride is to help them growing up and becoming more confident to finally find their place in society.
Our production system
We produce our luxury ready-to-wear pieces in two countries: our knits made with alpaca wool and our garments made with pima cotton are produced in Peru since 2009, and our embroidered pieces, our dyed textiles and our woven fabrics are made in India since 2021.
Our system is based on contracts that we sign for each collection with our Peruvian and our Indian artisans. We agree on the prices they suggest and we pay them a deposit before they start producing anything. This money enables them to sustain themselves and their families during their production period. Once they have delivered their knits on time, and once our group leaders checked that each piece meets STELLA PARDO’s quality requirements, we pay them the remaining amount of money without delays. Our Peruvian knitters can work from home, but we ask them to come to their group leader’s workshops at least once a week for quality controls and to keep us informed.
Our workshops and suppliers’ factories in India are all run by families. We prefer to work with human-sized workshops where everyone knows each other. The easiest choice would have been to sign contracts with industrialized and super-equipped workshops, where we could have produced more. But that is not our purpose. We want to achieve in India what we built in Peru during the last thirteen years: an ethical and responsible production chain in which we can work hand in hand with our artisans.
Our designer goes to Peru several times per year to oversee the production of her collections. She stays with her knitters to work on her designs, guide them and even create with them new crochet stitches. When she is in Peru, she also visits her alpaca wool and pima cotton suppliers, and monitor the working conditions of their employees. Since all our suppliers are certified with sustainability labels (GOTS, OEKO-TEX), we never had any problems with them. When Cinthya is not in Peru, she calls her group leaders every day and asks for regular reports. Because of the pandemic, she couldn’t travel to her homeland for two years. Thanks to video calls, our designer guided remotely her knitters despite the time-zone differences from Lima to Paris.
As we just launched our production line in India, we still have a long way to go before every step of the production becomes completely ethical and responsible. Our designer visited herself each workshop and checked that they meet our working conditions and employees’ safety criteria. She met every workshop director, and she talked with each of their artisans to check their well-being at work. She also checked our Indian suppliers’ places. If our producers and suppliers tick the boxes of most of our standards, we have noted a few things that need to be improved over the next years
Diversity is a strength
One of STELLA PARDO’s main mission is to preserve cultural heritages and traditions, whether it is weaving alpaca wool just like the Incas did, being inspired by mystical effortlessly chic Parisians, or highlighting tie and dye, an ancestral Indian dyeing technique.
In line with this mission, our brand welcomes diversity with arms wide open. We work with alpaca breeder families from the Andes Mountains, with Indian knitters living in the countryside, and with mamacitas (“little mothers”) from Cuzco, who dress with traditional Peruvian dresses. We believe that age, religion, ethnicity, sexual orientation, physical appearance or disability differences are by no means obstacles, but inspirational.
Lastly, if we take into account our artisans’ personal situations when recruiting them, we also pay attention to gender equality, and we do not hesitate to work with experienced men who share our values. We have six knitting groups leaders in Peru. Three of them are women: Juanita, Sylvia and Elsa. The three others are men: Rubens Santiago, and Cesar. We also want women to access leadership roles. For example, our two global production managers in Peru and India, Beldad and Rafia, are women.