I’m starting the Think Locally series because I realize that I have to start consuming things again, and when I start I want to choose companies that agree with my values. I recently got into a spat with one of my parents when they tried to buy me a pair of pants from Macy’s. I agree that my clothes are looking old, but I couldn’t imagine just walking into Macy’s an buying new ones after not buying mass-produced clothing for the better part of two years. I won’t have to face these choices for at least another year, but I wanted to start doing my homework early. It doesn’t hurt that I like finding out about new and interesting local, San Francisco-based clothing manufacturers and brands.
Several apparel businesses manufacture their goods in San Francisco, but it seems nearly impossible to source fabrics and all the materials necessary for fabrication from the US, much less local to San Francisco or even California. I find myself stuck between values, wanting to support the growth of American production, but restricted by the realities of what it means to manufacture in an ever expanding, global-industrial world.
Now onto Cuyana.
I met one of the two women who is helping create this brand that uses and interesting model. They travel to different countries and use materials local to the region, as well as local manufacturing, to produce small batches of luxury goods. This means that they use workers and machinery already in use for the production of well-branded goods. They basically mooch off of infrastructures that already exist, and since they don’t have to cover the costs of machinery and rent, they are ablr to offer their products at a lower price. [I may have this totally wrong, but this was what I interpreted from the conversation I had with one of the women.] Although, I’m not sure $64 for a scarf,and $94 for a “vest” that is little more than a rectangle of fabric is reasonable. Their markup is significantly less for the same goods you might find at say Barney’s, but a whole lot more than what you find at Macy’s.
This is the dirty little secret that all fashonistas know: two articles, made in the same factory, with the same raw inputs can be sold for very different prices depending on the brand name.
Cuyana is currently selling this beautiful alpaca vest and alpaca scarves, sourced and manufactured in Peru.
From the website:
We travel the world searching for the highest-quality, locally-made goods. Along our journey, we work with the best traditional craftsmen, pick the finest of local materials, and elegantly fuse local inspiration with our clean modern design.
Cuyana means to love in Quechua, the traditional language of the Andean tribes. Our name represents our love for fashion, travel, and giving back.
I can get down with their love train. They are one of a number of brands that have a for-profit model that donates a portion of their proceeds to a charitable cause, in Cuyana’s case they support clean water projects. I feel ambivalent about incorporating charitable giving into a business model, but it seems to be a standard in many newcomer brands, and I like the idea of giving back. The best example of this I can think of is Tom’s, who donates a pair of shoes to a child without them every time someone buys one. One for one, they call it.
Now I will rate Cuyana, based on a set of values I think are important.
US Job Creation: D-
Authenticity: C+ (The lady I met was super nice, and travels the world with her very small baby.)