It's rare to get an opportunity to follow something you choose to purchase and wear from its place of origin to finished product. Clothing can be a very intimate and personal thing. It's something we choose because in some way it not only serves a function but it adds dimension and depth to our personality. It becomes a part of the story we're telling, an identifier, or even an artifact. I don't think I'm alone in believing that there's something special when the products we wear and use mean something. Do something. While I began the trip reasonably familiar with the mission of KK intl. and their emphasis on knowing the faces and stories behind each product (and supporting and empowering those individuals), this came to life for me in a very real way over the course of a week's time. Here are a few of the faces and lives we encountered along our journey. Distant from many who will read this, yet sharing the same hopes, dreams, and passions as many of us just the same.
Meeting and spending time with the alpaca farmer and his son Ronaldinho was a surreal experience. Following them around for the afternoon was amazing, but more than that, it really brought back a thought that frequently has come to me in moments like this in the past. As Ronaldinho and I kicked his "good ball" around (it was fairly beat up, but in great shape compared to the other one that was barely recognizable as a soccer ball anymore), I saw such joy. So much happiness from such a simple moment. And in that moment it reminded me of just how much we often overthink life. How in our frequent excess we lose sight of the moments that are filled to the brim with the joy and happiness of living. Ronaldinho reminded me of that, and I'll never forget that one-of-a-kind smile.
We met many more of the faces behind it all as we proceeded to make four more stops. Each time coming into contact with another person who played a part in bringing something as simple as a warm hat to life. I've never thought of my clothing as a collection of faces, but this one week in Peru really challenged me to care about the "who" behind what I buy. To recognize that the choices I make as a buyer can have significant implications in the lives of the people who are part of the process. It also reinforced my belief that business and entrepreneurship can be a force for good in this world.
That big problems can be solved in a sustainable way.
That big ideas still have the power to create change in our world, and that more than ever, people matter.
Peru and its people will forever be in my heart. Their smiles and warm welcomes. Their energy and passion for living. The bright traditional colors many wear a reminder of the vibrance and strength carried within.
I'll close with this shot of Yanet and her signature. Because I think it speaks for itself. Giving a voice and a face to those so frequently presented as nameless and faceless. Lost behind models and marketing and magazines. I'm thankful that in a few small buildings in Lima, Peru, there's a group of dedicated people creating spaces of dignity, hope, and a future to look forward to for many now and many more in the future. To me that's something to celebrate.
If you're interested in seeing more about the "World's Greatest Beanie" project, you can click the link above and take a look at the Kickstarter campaign.