If we do everything we can to be as eco-friendly and fair as possible, it is almost impossible for a brand to be a 100% ethical and environmentally friendly at the same time and to please everyone from its customers and producers to its designer. Our main mission is fair trade. Our artisans’ well-being is our top priority. Unfortunately, we sometimes have to make choices, often in favor of fair trade, sometimes in favor of eco-responsibility, and more rarely in favor of profitability. Here lies the challenge of sustainable and responsible fashion.
Furthermore, we refuse to “greenwash” our customers – which means for a brand to display a superficial or insincere concern for the environment - and to mention only our green commitments to reassure our customers. We believe it is crucial to be transparent on our production and our choices.
Why don’t we produce our collections in France?
We are often asked this question. Our designer first considered STELLA PARDO as a humanitarian project to undertake in her home country, wanting to help single mothers living in slums and in marginalized areas. That’s the first reason why we prefer to produce our collections in Peru and India: we want to create job opportunities in countries that need it the most.
We also use materials that are harvested a few hours away from our production sites. If our workshops would be in France, we would have to ship our Peruvian and Indian materials overseas, which would increase our carbon footprint. Plus, Peruvian knitting know-how is internationally renowned. It requires technical skills that have been passed from generation to generation and that cannot be find in France.
We have tried to find French workshops that meet all our quality and sustainability standards. In 2020, we created a capsule collection in collaboration with the brand Syrah, which was entirely made in a responsible workshop in Nîmes, South of France. We hope to find more French workshops like this one in the future.
What’s behind our prices?
First of all, there are our materials. We mainly use alpaca wool and pima cotton, two materials that are so luxurious that they are listed on the stock exchange. In terms of microns - the unit of measure of the diameter of a textile fiber - alpaca wool is very similar to cashmere. Plus, alpaca wool and pima cotton are two rare materials. Our alpaca wool comes from herds that freely graze in the Andes Mountains, and our pima cotton is harvested in Peru, in two specific regions. Since rarity is essential to luxury, our use of these two exceptional materials highly influences the prices of our pieces.
Then, there is our artisanal production. Our pieces are all handmade by talented knitters. Our artisans can spend up to 14 days on a knit. We fight industrial production, where you just have to program a machine to produce thousands of pieces. We prefer our knitters’ ancestral know-hows, who can make each garment unique and exclusive. If there is a quality defect on a knit, our artisans start it all over again to meet our Western quality standards.
Lastly, our production is fair and we fight against artisans’ exploitation. We understood that all our artisans should be entrepreneurs instead of employees. Thus, our knitters can estimate themselves the value of their work and get descent incomes.
What do we need to improve to be more sustainable?
- Our carbon emission rate
We export our collections four times a year by plane. We are willing to change our mode of transport and to opt for shipments with cargos, which are less polluting than airplanes. However, transports by ship take a very long time, which means that we would have less time to produce our collections. We would impose shorter deadlines to our artisans, asking them to constantly work under pressure and to sacrifice the quality of our knits to hurry up. Such a change of transport would therefore be at odds with our commitment to fair trade and our status as a luxury brand.
However, to limit our carbon emission rate, we found some solutions: our partners must order the exact number of STELLA PARDO’s pieces they need for each collection, so we don’t overproduce. Our handmade production, which doesn’t consume any electricity, and our use of natural materials, harvested near our production sites, also contribute to reduce our carbon emission rate.
- Our packaging
We still use non-recycled plastic bags to pack our orders. As we source each of our materials – from our textiles to our packaging - near our production sites to reduce our carbon emission rate, we haven’t find yet Indian or Peruvian producers of recycled plastic. We have recycled each scrap of fabric into packaging bags since we have launched of our new ethical production chain in India.