OUR STORY IN SHORT
ARMS OF ANDES
We are Arms of Andes- a family brand, built and run by me (Meli) and my brother, Rensso. Being of peruvian-decent and California-born millennials, we decided to bridge the gap between the heritage of our ancestors’ and the modern world, creating unique garments that reconnect people with nature: sustainable outdoor clothes, made from Inca’s most functional fibre: Alpaca Wool.
My Story (Meli)
"Los Angeles locals, born to rural Peruvian parents, me and my siblings were infatuated with nature. Since we were kids, we spent our entire summers in our mother’s hometown near Cajamarca, in the highlands of Peru. We would test our parents' knowledge (and probably, patience) of our roots, listening to stories of our ancestors. The reality of our Peruvian cousins was tremendously different from the tumult of the city we knew from LA. The Andean people are so down to earth and community-oriented, maintaining simple, but very sustainable life: eating only local, fresh foods and making clothes by themselves using wool, cotton, and leather. Living close to nature and often depending on it, they have learnt how to use its resources respectfully. We always relished learning everything we could about our heritage, with a fascination with The Inca: the civilisation arisen from the Peruvian mountains. “How did they keep warm?” we’d ask our aunts. Used to the Californian climate, neither of us could comprehend how indigenous people survived in such extreme altitudes and climates.
Having travelled across the globe as backpackers and experienced different cultures since our early 20’s, both my brother, Rensso, and me decided to work for our father’s company. Exporting superfoods from Peruvian farms to food manufacturers and distributors around the world was our first, often uneasy, but extremely rewarding experience in cohering Peruvian culture with the way Western World conducts business, an insight into the benefits and limitations of working in Peru.
My Brother, Rensso
We might have grown up, but the fascination of Peruvian heritage and our love of nature remained. One day, my brother, Rensso, listened to the podcast about the benefits of Merino wool and it sparked the idea of using alpaca fiber for the outdoors. Although alpaca wool was known in fashion industry, it seemed that no-one else fully realized the real benefits and importance of this “fiber of the Gods”, widely used by people from Peruvian highlands. Studying the beneficial properties of alpaca fleece and the story behind it, we had researched, ran tests, learned from our many mistakes, and finally created the first Royal Alpaca Mid Layer. That was the beginning of Arms of Andes: born to bridge the gap in the cultures we grew up in and combine the magical, functional Alpaca fiber into modern garments that today’s explorers could use on their adventures in the wild. Although making outdoor gear from Alpaca wool is something unique itself, we wanted to be different as a manufacturer and a brand. Our goal was to bring people back to nature and to ensure that just like our ancestors, we too are fully sustainable and supportive of our civilisation. The story of The Andean people and their beloved alpacas deserves to be heard, and we feel it is our responsibility to do it, sharing the sustainable living and mindset with today’s world. We look at our ancestors as role models and follow their methods. They used natural dyes from local areas. So we decided to do the same. Every day we are doing our best to make AoA better and more innovative, maintaining Andean legacy and traditions at the same time."
Our Father, Manuel, is the reason why we could start our dreams to have Arms of Andes as a family brand. Coming from a small town called Huancayo, in the highlands of Peru, he grew up in a big family with five of his cousins and three aunts, who raised him like he was their own child. He didn't have much growing up and that fueled him to make something better for him and his family. Papa studied Civil Engineering in Lima, where he met our Mama. Together they decided to risk it and try their luck moving to the United States, hoping for better life opportunities. Dad’s hard work, persistence and constant need for improvement helped him overcome struggles of their first years as immigrants and soon he started his own production company in Los Angeles, CA. Years later, he created a family business exporting super foods from Peru to the world. He never forgot the humbleness his early years taught him or where he came from. Dad was the one to advise us on what an honest company was like. That business does not only need to be profitable, but also ethical and moral. He inspired AoA to push the boundaries of the modern-day manufacturer process and become more sustainable and transparent than any brand has ever been.
Our Mother, Marcela, was born in a very small town called Iglesia Pampa near Cajamarca in the Andes. She grew up in a loving family, living in a very traditional way, in an adobe house sat on top of a hill overlooking a river. Mom would always describe her childhood's lifestyle as the same the Incas once had. She rode horses, had her cuyes-guinea pigs, made her own toys from clay and knitted her clothes from wool, dying them with cochineal. She moved to Lima when she was 15 years old, and soon she met our dad. Both of them saw the United States as a land of opportunities and decided to move to Los Angeles when Mom was 23, without knowing any English. It was only after having her first child, our oldest brother Alejandro, when she first started learning the new language . Then, in her mid 30’s, she decided to go to school and get her degree in nursing. Eager to learn, she received the highest grades and a scholarship. Living far away from her homeland, our mother never forgot her heritage. Nostalgically remembering her early years, she made sure her kids knew where their roots came from. She instilled her love of nature and natural ways of living and respect of Peruvian traditions into us. She inspires us to create new products with natural material from Peru.