OUR MISSION & PURPOSE
In the Quechua language, Pampa means ‘plain earthy land between the mountains’
Since starting Pampa in late 2012 we had a single purpose and mission - to support as many artisans as possible from Argentina and work directly with them (no middlemen) to ethically produce high quality and long-lasting homewares and textiles using noble and sustainable materials.
To work ethically means, to us, that the artisans are working in their own environments in rural Argentina and getting paid a fair wage, which is above the average wage received by people in their region who are undertaking similar work. By staying at home they are helping to preserve their culture, their own heritage, the art of craftsmanship and above all, their communities. In big cities where they tend to migrate, they cannot continue with this kind of work sustainably and it often leads to a loss of their skills, traditional knowledge and feelings of displacement.
Pampa was co-founded by an Argentinean, Victoria Aguirre and an Australian, Carl Wilson, whom met travelling in Latin America and shortly afterwards began living in Australia together. Victoria couldn’t resist the homesickness she felt, so she began a mission to be somehow connected every day to her homeland, her people, her roots and Pampa was born, founded with the desire to protect and share Argentinean woven heritage and to promote a sense of place. Years later Manuel Aguirre, (Victoria’s brother) joined the team as the Production Manager in Argentina. Since then Pampa has become a small family run business, run by the labour of love.
In the Quechua language, Pampa means ‘plain earthy land between the mountains’. It's an earthy and fertile landscape that for us, evokes feelings of freedom and hope. We name each of our collections after the homelands of our artisans, who make their wares using natural materials sourced from their surroundings.
Our rugs, textiles, soft furnishings and objects also celebrate their provenance; each of our rugs have unique variations in grain and colour profile, a marker of its origins and a signature of the weaver by whom it was woven.
We always find so much inspiration when travelling through these remote areas visiting our artisan partners. We photograph our collections in the locations that they come from, as we feel that there is no better place in which to portray them. That deeply rooted sense of place is the backbone of Pampa, allowing us to continue exploring art, preserving heritage and empowering culture.
We are often asked where we find our inspiration - the answer is in these photographs. We come back to them time and time again as a reference, grateful that nature, our beautiful Pachamama (Mother Earth) feeds us the constant inspiration that we need to build our business and share with our community.
We see our artisans as part of the extended Pampa family
We see our artisans as part of the extended Pampa family and we speak with most of them on a weekly basis. Their happiness, health and wellbeing and financial stability matters to us and as Pampa continues to grow, we hope it supports their growth too.
When we began Pampa, many of our artisan partners didn’t have anywhere to sell their products. Many of them had the knowledge and skills to weave incredible textiles, but lacked the ability to connect with a global audience.
Paying a fair price for our homewares helps guarantee that our weavers receive the working wages they are entitled to. The profits each artisan makes are reinvested back into their family, used to cover day-to-day living expenses such as food and clothing, paying school fees, accessing health care, and sourcing new tools and materials for weaving.
Earning a fair wage has enabled many of our weavers to form their own co-operatives, giving individuals the added benefit of sharing materials, ideas and workloads. This flexibility means that our weavers can work from their homes and villages, eliminating the need to travel long distances to sell their rugs or find alternative employment in big cities.
By respecting each individual artisan’s creativity and technique, Pampa helps to give communities a stronger sense of cultural independence and pride. Showing our artisans, the real value of their work demonstrates to the younger generations that weaving is an honourable and profitable vocation, helping to preserve this traditional art form for years to come.
We think it is important to explain that the way Pampa operates is slightly unusual for modern business. Our weavers don’t have email, phone calls or text messages are the only way to communicate. This means that everything is dependant on a phone signal in their region. It requires a lot of extra effort and patience to be able to work the way we need to, but the more ongoing work we can provide for these communities, the more we are contributing to their growth out of poverty (in most cases) and the building of sustainable regional communities. This rests at the heart of what we aim to achieve.
You can read more about our artisans partners here
As Pampa grows, we are always looking to partner with more artisan communities across Latin America, and hope to bring more, ethically made, traditional craftsmanship to our international community.
We work closely with our artisan communities on the design of our pieces.
When we began Pampa we introduced some “Heritage” designs, drawing on traditions, from folklore and parts of the Argentinean heritage.
Since our first Pampa collection where we offered a few rugs, cushions and throws, we have now grown to having our own team of designers in our Studio in Byron Bay led by Victoria Aguirre, and the majority of our products are now designed in-house. The design process begins from Victoria’s time in nature (where she finds most of her inspiration) or from her extensive collection of design and historical & ethnic photography books. It can also start from a suggestion from one of weavers - either way, everything is finalised in our Byron Bay studio before sending off to the weavers for production.
We have grown out of admiration of Argentinean designs and also modified these to suit our brand aesthetic. We also admire and are inspired by traditional designs from Andean, Zapotec and Navajo communities which influence some of our wares. One of the things we enjoy most is the research involved behind every rug collection, which can be inspired by our travels, by our artisan communities or even from a modern city or artist.
At Pampa we produce very small batches, all rugs are produced one at a time, except for the Mini Rugs that are produced in pairs. Our cushions come in batches of 50 for the most popular styles and in 5 or 10 for the less popular designs. Our Ponchos are produced in batches of 10 to 20, our woven chaguar bags are all one-off pieces and our leather bags come in batches of 20 at a time. The scale of growth and production in Pampa is limited by several factors, not wanting to flood the market, our commitment to having no product wasted, and being conscious of the times in which we live, which demand we drastically reduce our consumption.
Production is also related to weather, which we feel makes our product even more special. We not only respect our artisan’s flow but also mother nature’s rhythm. The wool has to be dried in the sun and if it's monsoon season everything can be delayed. Also throughout the winter when our sales are the highest given we are a wool based brand, we have problems with wool supply. Sheep can’t be shorn in winter, and this past winter was particularly cold in Argentina. We didn’t have wool for our rugs as the sheep needed the wool to make it comfortably and safely through the harsh winter. Due to climate change and the unpredictability of the season, this will be an important consideration in winters to come. All of these factors come into play and it is a constant understanding and conversation between our artisans, ourselves and our clients.
Running a business ethically that can only produce small batches of handmade products at a time means that we have to pay close attention to our pricing structure. Exportation fees, import duties, domestic freight in Argentina and abroad, management of one-off pieces and all the usual expenses associated with running a retail business contribute to our final pricing. We keep our prices as low as we practically can, whilst still being able to maintain growth within the business to ensure a prosperous future for all involved in the chain. We are grateful to our community for supporting handmade, traditional craftsmanship and for allowing us to continue our artisan relationships with remote communities in Argentina.
At Pampa we have a genuine understanding that we are accountable for our impact on Mother Earth.
We are constantly reviewing our business practices to reflect this; working on reducing our carbon footprint, working with natural materials, eliminating all plastics from our packaging and shipping processes and ensuring we can continue to provide long-term, stable work for our artisan partners.
Pampa pays respect to our resources by working with natural materials, we are very thoughtful at the time of selecting new materials to work with and always take into consideration the critical situation our planet is enduring.
We love wool, especially sheep and llama’s wool which we use in all our handwoven rugs and textiles. Wool on its own is a natural, breathable and renewable fibre with low environmental impact and provides warmth and comfort to any room. All of our rugs are made from 100% hand-spun sheep wool, except for our intricate weave rugs which have a hidden internal cotton warp, which amounts to only a 3% to 4% of the fibre used in these rugs.
Most of our throws, ponchos & scarves are woven with llama’s wool, which is amazingly soft and luxurious. Some collections are a blend of llama wool, sheep’s wool and cotton.
Our cushions are all handwoven with 100% sheep’s wool, except for the Porteño and Puna cushions which have the underside made of fabric from a local Argentinean supplier and then finished by a very small group of seamstresses.
The inserts we use inside of our cushions are filled with a PET fibre which is derived from cleaned and recycled water bottles. For every kilogram of PET fibre produced, more than 70 water bottle can be saved from going into landfill or potentially our oceans.
Working with leather is a new thing for us. Since Argentina is renowned for its leather, so it was only a matter of time before we began working with this versatile material for Pampa. Leather production in Argentina has gained notoriety worldwide for its high quality, traceable origins and the use of traditional techniques, we are very proud to include it in our offering.
Our leather products are a celebration of craftsmanship and the empowerment of cultural traditions that we love supporting at Pampa.
The leathers we source are all vegetable-tanned using natural elements and are shaped, handled and finished by artisan groups. It is treated with great care and respect, alongside the artisans we appreciate how special and valuable a material this is. Most people don’t know that leather is a by-product of the cattle industry, meaning it otherwise go to waste if not used.
The leather for our Porteño chairs & swings and bags is specifically sourced from an area known as Las Pampas, just south west of Buenos Aires. We work closely with a small team of craftsmen who have been working with leather for generations - the Elders pass knowledge and skills down to those in younger generations who are seeking employment and the values of learning a trade.
The goldsmiths who make Pampa bracelets have also worked with leather for decades. They are passionate about preserving ethnic and ‘gaucho’ style designs that can be seen on the talismanic, silver pendants they make, which can be found on our Ponchos so well!
We love the way that this kind of natural leather ages, much like a good wine. It will accumulate small marks and variations that add authenticity and document the beauty of the aging process.
Chaguar is a natural fibre from a plant that looks very similar to aloe vera which grows in the bush in the Litoral region of Northern Argentina. It is used by the Wichî indigenous community, whom have been using this technique of weaving for centuries.
This year we are introducing summer ponchos woven with 100% cotton, which is a hypoallergenic breathable fabric, lighter than llama’s wool and easy to wash. The cotton we use in our blended ponchos is cotton that was otherwise going to waste, and so we are making good use of it.
Working with natural dye colours made good sense, to reflect our aesthetic but also as a way to have as little an environmental impact as possible. Our colours are derived from mostly plant matter, such as bark, leaves, fruit & vegetables, ash and other elements that surround the weaver’s homes.
For some of the brighter, more intense colours we occasionally use, such as blues and reds, these are produced from mineral dyes that we source for the weavers from a supplier in Buenos Aires.
Many of our garments don’t use dyes at all, and are simply woven from virgin wool. These are the pieces which we celebrate the most as they have even less environmental impact. For instance, our classic Puna throws which come in natural, light brown, tobacco and black are woven from 100% virgin llama wool that have simply been cleaned, spun and woven. All of our grey and natural wool cushions are also 100% virgin wool.
We are committed towards being as plastic free as practically possible.
Our products are mostly handmade with no machine use, which is pretty rare in modern production, but we wanted to do our best to further reduce our impact on the planet. Looking at our packaging was the obvious next step.
For our smaller, less fragile items we package them in compostable courier satchel made from corn starch. These can be used in home or commercial compost and can be used in worm farms. We also use larger compostable bags in place of plastic bags to protect bigger items inside boxes when needed, usually only with international shipments.
Calico market bags made from 100% cotton are used in certain products. These are reusable, washable and also made in Argentina by our small factory in Buenos Aires. These are much more expensive than a plastic option, but we like to provide work for another small business who is helping reduce permanent waste on the planet.
Our leather labels stitched onto many of our rugs and textiles are made from offcuts from our leather bags, otherwise this leather would go to waste.
Water Activated Tape is used were applicable in place of regular plastic tape, this is non-toxic, solvent & chemical free, 100% recyclable alternative. Eco-stickers and labels made from recycled paper are also used in place of the usual plastic option.
Almost all of the packaging materials such as boxes and compostable bags which are used to transport product from Argentina to our Australian HQ in Byron Bay are reused to send out orders to final customers. This means we have practically zero waste from all of our importation into Australia.
Fine Art Prints
We print our fine art prints with a local family run business just outside of Byron Bay. We have worked with them for over 5 years now, and absolutely love working with them. We print on 100% cotton rag paper, and ship them packaged in Australian made cardboard tubes to destination all around the world. The end caps on these tubes are unfortunately plastic, but we are currently looking into alternative solutions which will not put our fragile prints at additional risk to damage.
Transport & Exportation
Our products that are produced in remote Argentina travel by local bus services from the closest town to the weavers, to our office in Buenos Aires.
For our exportation from Argentina to Australia and the rest of the world, we are now selecting to pay an additional amount for each delivery with UPS to offset the shipment via their carbon neutral program. They partner with Natural Capital Partners to do so. More info: https://www.naturalcapitalpartners.com/ups-shipment-program
We are currently looking into moving all of our domestic AusPost deliveries to a carbon neutral delivery service.
We are proud of our ‘Tracing Maps’ concept where we connect our artisans work to the rest of the world.
For every product made, especially our handwoven rugs, there are many different artisans involved. We like to see it as weaving a map that traces them all together in order to achieve these final wares. This usually starts from the sheep wool, then to the hand-spinning, preparing the loom, weaving and then the finishing touches.
We are also planning our future social impact work. In addition to providing honourable work for our artisans, we endeavour to support them in other ways that will help their communities. We’re looking into joining forces with local Argentinean business that integrate well being, education, etc.
A product we are very proud of is our Litoral Hammocks. Here, we’ve partnered with Incausa to offer a truly unique product - the Xingu Hammock. It’s the first time we've explored a product of this nature and we are proud to have committed to this project pro-bono, meaning that after shipping and taxes, ALL profits go directly to the Amari Woman in Brazil.
We are working on a new idea where our clients have the option to write a letter to our weavers if they want to thank them personally for their beautiful work. By doing this, we are not only empowering them as artisans, but adding a real human connection to the transaction.
And in Byron, Australia, we try to participate in many local events of our small creative community, and are looking towards participating more in fundraisers, charity events and local projects in and around Byron.
We aim to be completely transparent about all aspects of the business.
We are currently undertaking the exciting process of applying to become a B-Corp. Certified B Corporations are businesses that meet the highest standards of verified social and environmental performance, public transparency, and legal accountability to balance profit and purpose.
On the whole, we are always looking to improve our practices, to promote inclusivity and to be good stewards of our environment. We aim to be completely transparent about all aspects of the business.
Please get in contact if you have any suggestions for our products, processes or services.