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Behind the brand with Handmade Stories

Published: 27-10-2022

A new brand is available in your digital wardrobe. Meet Handmade Stories, a female-founded slow fashion brand supporting indigenous women, artisans and men in prison in Peru. If you’re already a Handmade Stories customer, your past purchases are waiting in your digital wardrobe to be reworn or resold. Soon-to-be customers can shop pre-loved Handmade Stories to continue the story of their clothes.

We caught up with founder Elena to go behind the brand…

Meet Elena, the founder of Handmade Stories

When did you start Handmade Stories?

I started Handmade Stories while stranded in Peru at the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic. I had been volunteering with indigenous women in rural communities in the Andes that don't have access to the modern economy but need a way to access it. When the pandemic hit, the volunteering organisation closed and left them more isolated than ever. I started the business to provide them with a fair income under the WFTO's guidelines and help them keep their traditions alive. I now also work with other marginalised artisans and men in prison.

What makes Handmade Stories to other fashion brands?

Handmade Stories was born to support women achieve economic independence. We follow the principles prescribed by the World Fair Trade Organisation to ensure our practices are fair and improve the lives of those who work with us. This means we put people and their needs first, and make business decisions that don't have a negative impact on their wellbeing.

For this reason, our collections are made in small batches and take a lot longer to produce. This not only avoids overproduction and unnecessary waste, but ensures our workers don't work over time and have a flexible working environment where they don't unattend other aspects of their lives such as their families, land and animals to receive external income. It also means they don't have to leave their communities to find work.

We have open conversations with all our artisans regarding pricing, contracts, and timings, and we reach mutual agreements. We also support the ones who want to set up their own businesses so they can be completely independent, even from us.

We also have a development fund for each community where we save part of the profit from each sale and dedicate it to undertake development projects chosen by the community.

What does circularity mean to you?

Circularity for me is making the most out of the resources we already have rather than getting and using new ones every time. Our collections are made using recycled materials where possible, for example silver from jewellery pieces that weren't sold before, or leftover fabric that wasn't being used. This way we avoid these materials ending up in landfill unnecessarily.

I like to think that a piece that has been worn by someone and made happy memories with them but for one reason or another doesn't get worn anymore, can be passed on to someone else, and all that joy will be passed on with it.

Why are you joining OWNI?

Our pieces are unique and carry a lot of traditional significance with them. The traditional Andean motifs that are handwoven into them tell stories, each element describes an aspect of the community, like the animals or the landscape, or the tools used to work the land. These motifs take a long time to weave and are really special to the people who make them.

I like to believe the people that buy them find them equally special, but sometimes our style changes, our body changes, and things that used to bring us joy don't get used anymore. I would hate to know these precious pieces are sitting in someone's wardrobe not being used, so I'd love to give people a platform to pass them on so they can bring joy to someone else and all the hard work and beautiful meaning can be appreciated again.

What are you selling on OWNI?

In OWNI, you'll find Handmade Stories pieces that have had a previous life. Hopefully others can rescue them and create more stories with them!

Shop and sell pre-loved Handmade Stories here.