Women Artisans In Patagonia
Through the founding of fashion forward enterprise, Chilote Shoes, Francisca Appacel and Stiven Kerestegian are transforming the lives of artisan women while keeping their vibrant heritage alive in Patagonia. The Conscious team had the privilege of interviewing the Denmark-based Founders, to learn about their inspiration, ‘made slow’ philosophy, and how they are part of an emerging class of designers that are building unique brands of sustainability and empowerment.
01 | TELL US ABOUT YOUR BRAND AND WHAT CHILOTE MEANS
Founded in 2010, Chilote Shoes
is a platform that enables the co-creation, crafting, and distribution of eco-inclusive, ethical footwear for conscious consumers worldwide. The mission of Chilote Shoes is to develop sustainable footwear while empowering independent makers and artisans.
Our first product is a multi-award winning wool slipper handmade in Patagonia through a coop system of ethical production. There is no factory. Therefore, each pair is ‘made slow’ with care and pride by independent artisan women doing what they know and love, knitting. The slippers are made of only two materials: sheep wool and upcycled salmon leather, both of which are local renewable materials sourced in Patagonia.
02 | WHAT DO YOU LOVE MOST ABOUT CHILOTESHOES
The relationships with our network of independent artisans are definitely the best part of our job, as well as the unique and valuable aspects of our inclusive production model. It’s interesting to point out that the direct personal relationships that we have with our network of independent artisans are both the secret to our success and our strongest differentiation within a very competitive market. Maintaining meaningful positive impact relationships with artisan makers is not compatible with the mass production approach of 99.9% the fashion industry.
03 | TELL US ABOUT YOURSELVES AND SOME OF THE THINGS YOU VALUE
Francisca, a business major with a focus on social impact, has been leading in-region fieldwork and consulting with both NGO’s and private organizations for over ten years. She works directly with communities and individuals living in vulnerable financial situations in South America.
Stiven is a recognized social innovator and sustainable design leader who has held key strategic positions in several leading multinationals including LEGO and Microsoft, as well as consulting positions with several governments, municipalities, and social start-ups.
As Co-Founders, initially, we did not set out to develop a line of sustainable footwear, far from it. Francisca and I (Stiven) met while working on related social design projects in the small town of Puerto Varas, knows as the gateway to the Chilean Patagonia. At the time, we had both identified the growing adverse effects of globalization in the local community. Together we developed a strong interest to further understand these social implications and decided to act. After many iterations and unsuccessful experiments, ChiloteShoes was born. Our intention is to leverage the power of creative problem solving, often described as “design thinking,” to make a positive impact for people and the planet. In practical terms, this means enabling more inclusive and responsible ways to co-create mutual value through business.
04 | WHERE DO YOU GET YOUR INSPIRATION FROM?
The main inspiration for this product was the local social and a material resource available in the Chilean Patagonia. We could not have designed this product in a studio in any major city as the discoveries and opportunities identified a direct result of our interaction and relationship with the local culture, communities, and industry.
05 | WHAT ARE SOME OF THE FUTURE PLANS FOR CHILOTE SHOES?
The future of Chilote Shoes is letting more people learn about our inclusive and innovative approach to entrepreneurialism. In the short term, we have several new equally amazing products in the works and plan to expand both our product line and our reach to conscious consumers worldwide. In the midterm, we plan to expand our operation to other geographical locations and across other noble sustainable materials.
06 | WHAT'S ONE THING YOU WOULD LIKE OUR READERS TO KNOW ABOUT CHILOTE SHOES?
The most important thing everyone should know about the ChiloteShoes project is that everyone wins. When you buy a pair of Chilotes, you are making a direct positive impact on an artisan woman living in a vulnerable situation while you enjoy the warmth and comfort of these useful and beautiful slippers.
Our production network is completely transparent, and each unit features a unique QR that links to specific details of the individuals involved in its output. Chilote Shoes is a rare example of where world class design meets real impact production. Our impact metrics show that this approach improves the adverse effects of globalization in the developing world.
07 | WHAT INSPIRED YOU TO START YOUR COMPANY
The problem was proposed as; how do we think globally and act locally? The challenge was straightforward, to create a highly sustainable opportunity that redefines the meaning of social inclusiveness, eco-materials, and processes and commercial viability. We needed to go beyond the traditional limitations imposed on sustainability measures of current manufacturing practices where incremental steps allow only small iterative improvements. Instead, we began focusing on the most eco-friendly materials and production methods available that were compatible with the local craftsmanship and social realities. Those limitations turned out to be the enablers of the ChiloteShoe's universal appeal not only for its aesthetic and functional qualities but also by providing a highly innovative story-line that embraces sustainability as an advantage instead of a limitation. We felt that to create something meaningful and compelling we needed to deliver more than just a great product design; we needed to create an ecosystem around the products complete life cycle. We are well on our way!
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FROM THE EDITOR
At Conscious, we are inspired by stories that cause us to think differently and think big-picture, and so we set out to tell stories with the help of leaders and influencers within the social good community. You can read more stories like this when you join as a member.