Gigi Pedraza, founder and owner of Inca Kids, A Fair Trade Store, seeks out and showcases the crafts and textiles of Peruvian artisans. She is based here in Atlanta and is a friend and former neighbor. I asked Gigi if I could feature an interview with her for a blog post to learn more about why Inca Kids was established, her inspiration for product designs, and upcoming plans for her business. She graciously agreed, and her responses to my questions are below.....
I was born in Toronto, Canada but I have spent most of my life in Peru. I first came to Atlanta in 2002, moved to Shanghai in 2005 and came back in 2007.#1 -- Are you from Atlanta? If not, where are you from and how long have you lived here?
#2 -- What was the spark that led you to create Inca Kids and what year did you establish the company?
While living in Shanghai I came face-to-face with the environmental and social damage mass production has in the world. After months of a sore throat I went to see a doctor fearing the worst. He said it was the pollution from the factories and to please never exercise outdoors but on an enclosed area. The air inside the buildings was cleaner. Also, I lived through several milk and toys with lead scares with an infant baby. The factories in China basically had no other choice than downgrade the quality of materials and supplies to accommodate to the never ending pressure of "the west" for cheaper products. Finally, I saw and worked with thousands of children, a whole generation of kids living with elderly and sickly grandparents. The parents were absent only because the only work available was in those same factories in some far away city paying cents the hour which forced them to live on the premises to score more hours so they could make ends meet. Traditional crafts were being forgotten.
I thought: "There must be a different and better way to create and produce. I am going to find it" and that is how I discovered the Fair Trade Movement, its principles and impact. I decided I wanted to be part of that and provide parents with an alternative when purchasing toys. I wanted to help them realize that every time they buy something, they are voting for an economic system that is fair to both consumer and producer.
I began operations in Nov. 2007.
I design around 40% of the items we sell. I am inspired by traditional crafts and figure out a way to use those same techniques applied to more modern design. I love the muted colors by vegetable dyes and the bright landscape scraps of fabric create when you pile them up high. I also try to incorporate traditional andean toys and accessories into our offering so you will find some stuffed Llama dolls in the most interesting colors as well as babywearing dolls entirely handknitted in alpaca The other 60% is designed and crafted entirely by the artisans we work with. They get inspired by their surroundings (the ever changing color of the mountains) and main foods (corn, potatoes)#3 -- What are your inspirations for selecting and creating the designs you feature?
I did research for a year looking for groups of artisans and co-operatives that understood the fair trade concept and whose products and production already had some quality control processes. Also, they had to be Peruvian. The level of craftsmanship is simply outstanding and I am familiar with the language and culture. The two co-operatives we work with represent more than 23 groups of artisans, their majority are women working in small communities or shantytowns across the country.#4 -- How did you go about sourcing your artisans for your products?
Currently in 3 boutique stores:#5 -- Where can we buy Inca Kids in Atlanta?
-At The Collective in Inman Park (280 Elizabeth Street)
-5 Continents in Buckhead (326 Pharr Rd)
-Green Mosaics in Decatur (228 E Ponce de Leon Ave)
We are evolving from a focus on online sales to a focus on placement on brick-and-mortar boutique stores and schools. We are developing a section recommending travel packages to Peru specifically including interaction and visit to artisans and their workshops, community centers and outdoor markets. Their is a gap between a traditional tour and an immersion experience in a country and its traditions. We believe we can help bridge that gap and increase awareness why fair trade and traditional techniques are so important to the livelihood of rural communities.#6 -- What are your plans for the business in 2012?