Campo Talk to Us All About How Their Peruvian Alpaca Wool is an Untapped Natural Resource Taking Knitwear to Another Level.
Campo is an sustainable clothing business thriving off of the renewable resource of alpaca wool, with their garments' comfortable and breathable qualities they'd be a staple in any ethical wardrobe.
Hi Katie, tell use about yourself, where you’re from and your brand Campo!
I'm Katie Lorenz. I am 30 years old from Chicago IL. I currently live in Wicker Park in Chicago where I work at Accenture as a Manager in Customer Insight & Growth as well as run Campo - my stat up side hustle! I am a proud alumna of the University of Wisconsin-Madison. I love to travel, cook, dance, explore new places, restaurants and meet new people. Campo is a social impact company that I started in 2017. Campo creates high-quality apparel and accessories made from alpaca wool, a hypoallergenic, lightweight fabric that is warmer than merino wool and softer than cashmere. Campo works with small businesses and artisan groups in developing countries to empower communities through employment and commerce opportunities.
Where did the name Campo come from?
Campo is a portmanteau. A combination of the words Cambio and Positivo, which means positive change in Spanish.
What inspired you to create your own brand based around alpaca wool/ fibre?
I was inspired from my first trip to Peru back in 2014. I was switching jobs and I decided to travel before I started my new gig. Peru is an AMAZING country with kind, vibrant, spirited people. I had an amazing one month trip around Peru where I first experienced ALPACA fiber. Personally, I don't like sweaters I find wool to be itchy, heavily, and not breathable. This alpaca wool was completely different - It was super light-weight, while managing to keep my body temperature. I climbed the Salkantay trail to Machu Picchu, over snow covered mountains, and my alpaca sweater and accessories kept me at a great temp. I proceeded to buy a duffel bag and buy all my my family and friends alpaca apparel from Christmas. Gifts that all of them still have and use to this day. This was my start of my obsession with alpaca fiber. I learned everything I could about the material, why it was so soft and amazing, and about the animals. I learned many more awesome things - like alpacas are better for the environment because they don't have hooves, they have padded feet and they don't destroy the land they feed on. Also, alpaca wool is more sustainable than cashmere or sheeps wool.
The alpaca fibre was part one, but also on my trip to Peru i got to meet and know women knitters and weavers who are incredibly skilled as well as entrepreneurial. I learned of their hardships trying to make a living while taking care of their families. Finding work that would allow them to also watch their kids was difficult to find. I believe that business can be a force for good. I believe that commerce in developing communities can be incredibly powerful. So, I went into business with small businesses and collectives that I found around Peru.
Our goals are to make amazing alpaca products for niche markets and empower women and communities through ethical work, fair employment opportunities, and advancement.
This is Campo.
What inspirations from the world do you take and put into your collections?
We believe in timeless styles and craftsmanship that will last. We believe in fewer, but better apparel - this is the brilliance of alpaca fibre - you only should wash your sweater a few times per sweater season. Since it's a natural fibre - it doesn't need much else. Each product has a little piece of pure Peruvian culture - a unique applique on the inner right wrist. It is woven using the oldest known form of weaving called back-strap weaving. Each is colourful, vibrant, and one of a kind.
How does your brand use ethical and sustainable practices within the making and transporting of your clothes?
All of our packaging materials are made from recycled materials and are recyclable themselves. We only do one shipment of product from Peru to the USA each year to reduce our carbon footprint.
Tell our readers about how Campo “does good” in the world?
In our business we are doing good in the follow ways:
- Empowering through employment - we are creating job opportunities for people and in areas where they had few other options.
- Fair Wages - we know exactly how much each worker is paid who contributes to our garments and we ensure that they are paid fairly
- Safe working environment - no sweat shops, we make sure that our workshops are safe, comfortable, and a happy place to be. Many of our team even get the opportunity to work from home
- So far we have gotten $50,000 into small businesses and collectives in Peru, impacted 17 families by working with us, and empowered people in five different communities and collectives across the country
Do you visit Peru and your employees often?
Yes! I typically do two trips per year to Peru each 2-3 weeks long. I was just in Peru at the end of February to place our 2020 order, finalize samples, and get all of the materials and cash advances to the teams. Luckily I got out of the country in early March before Corona Virus lockdown!
What are the benefits of using Alpaca fibre in garments?
- Alpaca is light-weight and breathable due to it's hollow fibre structure
- It is hypoallergenic which means no-itch or irritation that normal wool can give people, this is because alpaca naturally has no lanolin
- Thermo-regulating - it helps keeps your body temperature, which makes it warmed than wool
- Some even say that it's softer than cashmere
Who/ what are your sustainable influences? They can be people, brands, etc.
- The Endery - I love the concept of using deadstock and they make amazing garments
- Greta - such a bold, intelligent young mind leading the charge to save out planet - she is amazing!
- Fair Indigo - they have been i the fair trade, sustainable business are a LONG time and they have paved the way and sent such a great example for us!
How do you personally maintain a sustainable lifestyle and do you have any tips?
- I try to not use plastic bags - I have reusable bags and wraps for food in the refrigerator
- Apparel purchases - I buy from fair trade and sustainable brands - I focus on creating a wardrobe that is small, high quality materials, and will last me a long time
- I eat locally whenever I can - I love supporting local farms and restaurants
What message would you like to tell consumers about sustainable fashion?
- I would like to say that their purchase and choice MATTERS, it might seem small, but supporting ethical, sustainable fashion companies will positively impact the future
- Do your research on those companies - sadly "greenwashing" is very real. Hold companies accountable to tell the truth and not just spin marketing stories with no follow through
What’s next for you personally and your brand?
We are GROWING! This is our third year in business and we are so excited to offer new products to our collection for 2020. We are currently participating in the Gener8tor: gBeta Acelerator Cohort to help s hone our message, and prep us for investor conversations. I am also looking forward to continuing to support Chaska - it is a NGO in Peru that empowers young girls living in poverty through educational and emotional support. This after school program is AMAZING and is making a great difference in the lives of families in Urban Cusco. I look forward to continuing to serve on their board and help fundraise for them and help grow their program.
Personally, building this company and brand is an incredible learning experience. I am growing so much as a person, business woman, marketer, and a leader.
Where can our readers find you online and on social media?