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This Peruvian-Based Ethical Clothing Brand Is Fighting Fast Fashion: BUST Interview

Alma Parvez copy

On May 7th, Rock+Pillar Trading Co. will debut their Spring 2016 collection of hand-crafted bags and shoes to the BUST Craftacular Spring! in Los Angeles!  Get your tickets for the BUST Craftacular in L.A. and come meet them in person and see their 2016 collection of handbags, shoes, backpacks and accessories!

Rock+Pillar is an ethically sourced line of handmade goods from Peru.  The style and originality of the company is the result of the close personal relationships forged between the talented local artisans and the company's founders, Alma Hartman and Parvez Pothiawala.  As they say on their company Facebook page:

"We found inspiration and wonder in small communities nestled in the majestic Andes and drew our attention to Cusco, Peru. Traveling through towering mountains and working in remote Andean villages helped us realize our love for this strange yet familiar land. As we spent more time in Cusco, we discovered the rich community of artisanal talent who call the ancient Incan capital their home. We were blown away by the meticulous handmade products that were a point of pride and a way of life for these Andean artist. The one statement we heard repeatedly was that local artists simply desired to earn a living by practicing their cultural traditions, we want to help them achieve that goal."

textiles from Rock+Pillar Spring 2016 collection

Their love story is interwoven with their passion to share beautiful handcrafted goods with the world, and their mission to help local artisans earn a living doing what they love.  I was able to talk to both Alma and Parvez about their story before their bring their work to L.A. to share with y'all at the BUST Craftacular:

RockPillar Reina shoe in Blue via rockpillar InstagramRockPillar Reina shoe in Blue via @rockpillar Instagram

Are you ready to go "awwww"?  Alma and Parvez are from Vermont, and their love story kicked off the journey that brought them to working together.  Parvez laughingly described their meeting as "so stereotypical, but it was one of those things where we saw each other and the whole world disappeared!"  When Alma travelled to Peru for a consulting job in October 2013, she found herself enthralled by the local culture and shared her excitement with Parvez.  He came to visit in December, for what was intended to be a short stay, but when it came time to leave the country, he said "it just didn't feel right."   Once they arrived back in the United States, they immediately booked a return ticket to Peru and the rest, as they say, was history.

Rock+Pillar

One principle that is near and dear to the Rock+Pillar Trading Co. philosophy is that the story behind their products is just as important as the beautiful goods themselves.  I asked Alma to share a special story with us, and she recalled a visit with their weavers that she felt resonated with BUST's philosophy of female empowerment:

"I remember we had been hiking for a day and a half or two trying to reach one of the most remote communities that we work with. And this community works with us in textiles, they’re weavers. So we were hiking for a day and a half and we finally came to the community and it was freezing, it was so cold! And we finally came down and we sat by the warm fire and then we see our weavers just warm and inviting, and just chatting away and weaving on their pieces and working on our textiles.  And here we were thinking they were going to be working — sitting down in a special “weaving center,” you know, like in a special room or at a special time, but then we just kind of realized that the women weave their pieces, you know, our pieces just every day while they’re just working and talking to each other and building connections with each other and making this community with each other and at the same time taking care of their kids, feeding one kid on the left breast and weaving at the same time! And we just kinda realized that these women are incredible! I mean, they’re doing what women do best, which is provide for their families in such a resilient, such a strong, amazingly artistic...it just showed me the capacity we have as women to provide for our families and how powerful we can be when we can express ourselves with what we have innately, which is creativity." 

Arequipa leather workers RockPillar

A glance at the company Facebook page or Instagram clearly conveys the strong ties to the community and Alma and Parvez's love for the land.  At times, it can feel more like you're looking at your friends' vacation photos, as opposed to a company page!  I asked Alma about Rock+Pillar's social media strategy, and she laughed, surprised: "I never thought of it like that," she said.  But the vibrant, relaxed photos show all you need to know about the close relationships to the community that exemplify the company's ethos:

"One thing that’s really important that we’re trying to convey is that — we did the math the last two years, and we’ve spent about 450 hours with our artisans. I mean, sharing beers with our cobblers, and like, having special lunch brought to us because the cobbler’s wife cooked for us the day before, you know, we’ve spent a lot of time with them just chatting and making jokes so now they’re like family to us. So we just wanted to, we thought it would just be fair to show our lives and show who we work with every day. Since Parvez and I do Rock+Pillar, all day, every day, we just snap pictures along the way and show everybody on Instagram and Facebook." 

Alma laughing it up with local artisans

BUST Spring! Craftacular in L.A. will be the first time Rock+Pillar Trading Co.'s all-new Spring 2016 collection will be available to browse in person!  Parvez told me I could say that, and he told me that they're adding all new products to their line for Spring 2016, so be sure to get your tickets for the Craftacular in Downtown L.A. today!  Thank you to Alma and Parvez for sharing their stories with us, and if you see them at the Craftacular, be sure to swing by and say HI!

Backpack 2 

 

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Meghan Sara is a tour guide for Ghosts, Murders and Mayhem Walking Tours.  She is open-minded about everything, but intolerant to gluten.  She blogs at meghansara.com, is a regular contributor to Femnasty, and tweets her feelings @MeghanSaraK.
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