PAKA is a new Peruvian Alpaca sweater company founded by local student-turned-entrepreneur, Kris Cody. Over the course of a few days this month, I had the chance to meet Kris, learn his story, and work with him on a photo shoot featuring two of PAKA’s sweater styles, the women’s Senda and the unisex Cusco.
The origin story of PAKA is more poetry than essay.
Kris took a trip to South America last year with friends and during their stay in Peru he noticed women carrying huge skeins of Alpaca yarn to the markets. He was struck first by the image itself, of the sheer strength it took to haul those loads through the streets, and he became very curious about what behind-the-scenes work took place in the localized Alpaca industry. He came back to the States with the inkling of an idea to make connections with knitters and embroiderers in the Alpaca market in Peru, and set back out last summer.
Slowly but surely, he was able to ask around, traveling from town to town until he connected with the artisans he works with now. They worked together to develop the unique, contemporary aesthetic of the PAKA sweater line and stay in frequent communication, with plans to start designing the next line early next year.
Kris and his team are committed to full and fair partnership as they move forward, and they have plans to get fair trade certified as soon as they have the infrastructure and cash flow to pursue it.
I’ve been lucky to get to physically meet with people in the ethical manufacturing space recently and it makes such a difference to look someone in the eye and see where their heart is. I’m convinced that Kris – and PAKA – are going places. And it’s not just because the social mission is a good one: I legitimately love the sweaters (I’m wearing one now, but that’s not surprising, because I’ve worn one almost every day since I received them).
Alpaca is warm without being bulky. It’s soft, but not flimsy. And I’ve heard from a few sources – including a local Alpaca owner – that happy Alpacas make better yarn. The interconnectedness of animals and people in the industry ensures mutual benefit. That’s why I am fully on board the Alpaca train.
These photos were taken on an early morning a few weeks ago not ten minutes from my house. Charlottesville is full of surprises. It’s built up in the city center so it’s easy enough to miss the mountains if you’re not really looking. But a slow drive through a residential area brought us to the stunning, ethereal scene of a lake boiling over with morning fog, the ducks shouting and coming near to see if I would feed them.
After a stream-side walk, we found ourselves at a clearing covered in frost that opened up to tall pines and mountains on three sides, old stables in their slow decay off in the distance.
I felt like I was inhaling everything through my eyes, the just, goodness, of it all.
In the wake of the political turmoil in my country and a personal loss in my family, I’m trying to sit, eyes closed, and remember what it felt like to be immersed in peace and wonder during that long, cold exhale of the morning.
Photos by Kris Cody.
Leah Wise is the founder of StyleWise Blog. She has been writing, speaking, and consulting on sustainable fashion, the fair trade and secondhand supply chain, and digital marketing for over ten years. An Episcopal priest, Leah holds a B.A. in Religion from Florida State University and an M.Div. from Yale Divinity School. When not working, you can find her looking for treasures at the thrift store.