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Hone Your Craft

See How These Ethical Alpaca Slippers Get Made (in Peru!)

Hone Your Craft 11/02/2017

 

When it comes to sourcing fur for her insanely cool leather booties and floofy, dreamy alpaca scuffs, the Brooklyn-based shoe guru Ariana Bohling cuts no corners. She travels to Peru herself to work with cruelty-free farmers and skilled artisans, sometimes taking five-hour road trips through the Sierras to spend time with the women who make her footwear. Below, the lengths she goes to ensure her pieces are the products of animals that have had long, happy lives.

 

MEETING SOME REALLY GOOD PEOPLE

“We’ve worked with the same couple, Hugo and Chane, on all of our knit slippers, and they have a background in alpaca fur—they actually met while working at a furrier. They’ve been working in the fashion industry for a long time making alpaca knits and furs, and we have a great working relationship. Alyson and I do design and development—so we sketch and come up with ideas. Then, we create technical specs and send them to Hugo and Chane, who work with a skilled team of female knitters in the Sierras to produce a prototype. They explain what we want and how to make it, the women put it together, and then Chane will often put on the finishing touches.”

 

 

TREATING THE ALPACAS WITH EXTREME CARE

“Not only are alpacas a protected species in Peru, but it also wouldn’t make economical sense for a farmer to raise them just for their fur. Instead, farmers raise their herd into their adult lives and shave them each year. In Peru, all the alpacas live in the Sierra highlands, which get super cold in the winters. If an alpaca dies naturally from the cold, that’s the only situation in which a farmer will use their skin.”

 

 

 

SEEING THE WHOLE THING FIRSTHAND

“On my most recent trip, I started in Arequipa, where Chane and Hugo live, to check on production and see new color swatches of fur. Then I took a five-hour road trip through the Sierras to Juliaca, near Lake Titicaca, to meet the women who do all the knitting for our wool slippers and see up-close what their process was like. We’re doing a slipper with an alpaca pom, and Chane is hand-stitching all of the poms.”

 

 

COMMITTING TO DOING A FEW THINGS—AND DOING THEM WELL

“One day when I was visiting Chile, Hugo showed me these amazing dyed alpaca furs in brilliant, beautiful colors, and I fell in love with them. We’re developing more colors of alpaca fur, and each of our styles will be available in about seven to ten colors. It may seem like we’re going overboard, but I’d rather do only a few simple styles and produce them in a ton of colors than develop many different styles, which would be much more complicated. This process allows us to make a lot of beautiful, high-quality shoes.”

 

 

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