Say ‘hello’ to Aravore! I am a huge fan of this label. I bought one of their lovely jumpers for my daughter, who has put it through the ringer and the art class and everything else in between, yet it still washes well and looks great. Besides creating beautiful clothes, Aravore is redefining the textile industry in Paraguay, where they loom their own organic fabric and work closely with the community to teach new skills to locals. Aravore was started by sisters Yanina and Norah. Yanina is the UK director and designer of the label and oversees the team in London. Norah manages the workshops in Paraguay where the organic cotton is produced and the clothes are made.
Inspired by the birth of her first child Thea, Yanina wanted to design a childrenswear range that would fill a gap in the market – an inspiring and exciting range that would offer customers something new and special: as far away as possible from the bland or slogan-ridden, mass-produced clothing that was on offer at the time. Being socially aware and inspired by the natural beauty of her childhood spent in South America, an organic and fairly traded childrenswear label seemed like the most natural choice.
Aravore was the first label in the UK (and one of the first worldwide) to produce design-led organic childrenswear. Most organic ranges until then had proposed very basic styles. Aravore believes that clothes can be beautiful and ethical whilst offering customers a garment that will last for years as opposed to just one season. “We pride ourselves on producing clothes that are fully traceable and benefit everyone involved – from the organic cotton farmers to the seamstresses that make our clothes to the children who wear them.”
What inspired you to start a fashion line using organic and natural materials?
We both felt that there was no other way to set up a business in the 21st century, it had to be guided and inspired by the principles of environmental and social sustainability and from a clothing company’s perspective this meant organic whenever possible and fair-trade. We also use some vintage fabrics which are effectively recycled and given a new lease of life.
What have been some challenges you have faced? Has it been difficult to find quality organic materials?
So many! I think the hardest obstacles from a business perspective have been in setting up the supply chain. Particularly being able to source a regular supply of good quality raw materials, getting it spun and transformed into fabric, has been very challenging.
The market for sustainable and organic yarns and fabrics is still very underdeveloped and therefore it is difficult to get companies operating with conventional cotton for instance, to spin one’s relatively small quantity of organic cotton or to turn it into fabric. The market is currently set up to operate with huge minimum quantities, which makes it very difficult for small businesses (which makes up most of the businesses currently producing organic clothing) to operate successfully.
From a personal perspective, setting up and running such a complex business as Aravore while at the same time starting a family has been a steep learning curve –to say the least! It’s manic most of the times but also hugely rewarding in so many ways. Not for the faint hearted though!
What measures to you take to ensure your products are ethical?
Beyond working closely with the growers and producers of the raw materials and ensuring that all our suppliers operate under high social and environmental standards, we take the social fairness side of the business very seriously. Yanina and Norah grew up Paraguay and other countries in the region and Norah still resides in Asuncion where the main Aravore workshop is based. Both were inspired by the natural beauty of the region where some of the best yarns and fabrics are produced as well as its rich textile making tradition. Crochet in particular is a very well known and popular craft skill in Paraguay. Nevertheless, parallel to setting up the business, we have set up a training workshop to bring these craft skills up to the highest professional standards. We offer regular (free) training which is open to the community and we have in fact been recognised with a Social Corporate Responsibility award in 2009 for our work in this area (Premio ADEC 2009). We are currently working in a project that involves a local university and a local spinner and textile manufacturer, to continue to enhance these skills, and we hope to be able to help bring the organic cotton industry in Paraguay to a whole new level.
As a business what policies do you have to minimize your carbon footprint?
We manufacture very close to where the raw materials are sourced (rather than shipping the raw materials to somewhere in Asia where even including the cost of transport manufacturing would be much, much cheaper). We also operate mainly with hand-powered looms and knitting machines and use a huge number of exclusively handcrafted techniques, which means that our electricity bills are pretty small. In terms of transport to the UK and beyond, we try to minimise the number of shipments we make in a year and try to be as efficient and waste-conscious as possible in order to minimise our impact on the environment overall.
Do you have any advice for living a greener lifestyle both as a business and as an individual?
Think of everything being interrelated. What you do and the way you do it affects everybody else and vice-versa. Think of the consequences of your actions in the medium and long terms (not only the immediate future) and think of how easy it is to make things a little better on a daily basis.
As a business, it is unthinkable not to consider the potential environmental and social impact of what you are producing/doing. Therefore it is also a big responsibility, but one that can be turned into a big opportunity for generating positive changes and as such one should simply embrace it!
Lastly, where can we find Aravore clothing?
It has been a busy few years for Aravore! Our wholesale business has grown rapidly and we’re now stocked in ten countries with over 100 stockists. From Fenwick Bond street in London to Barney’s in Tokyo and lots of lovely independent boutiques all over the UK and beyond.
We also opened a retail shop in London’s Crouch End in 2008 and have our own online shop.
For more information on Aravore, please visit: