Harvest in the valley is a wonderful time of year. People come together to pick their crops, press the grapes, and reap the benefits of the year’s production. The air is filled with a hint of vinegar as the new grapes ferment, and workers, families, and friends come together to celebrate another successful season.
Depending on what you’re going for, harvest time can range from September until November. In Napa Valley, harvest time is usually warm, with the sun setting earlier and clinging to the last days of summer before things start to cool down. After the harvest comes the chill, and this year we are fully prepared for when the fog rolls in and blankets the vines in its soft, dewy mist.
Sounds like it’s time to bundle up and get cozy! Check out our knits that are perfect for snuggling into winter. Bring on the cold!
By: Alicia Fischer, Communications @ Our Hands For Hope
We are always striving to be the fairest we can be. What does that mean exactly? In the world of Fair Trade, it means having a product, a business, and a lifestyle that contribute to the success, improvement, and equal treatment to the lives of others.
For us, being fair means justly compensating the women in Peru who create our knits. It means creating and teaching a sustainable business model for each woman to improve upon and contribute to while positively affecting their community. It also means promoting and sharing other Fair Trade companies who are doing the same thing: creating sustainable businesses that are ethically sound, setting an example for the world in helping to improve disadvantaged areas.
With that, we would like to present TCHO.
TCHO is a luxury chocolate maker in San Francisco, California that obsesses over the pure, natural flavors in chocolate.. The factory and store are located at Pier 17 along the embarcadero, and while they call San Francisco their native home, their chocolate is from Ghana, Madagascar, Ecuador, Dominican Republic, and — of course — Peru.
We had the opportunity to speak with them about the company, what Fair Trade means to TCHO, and a little more in depth about their TCHOSource program.
It is very uncommon in the chocolate business for cacao farmers and workers to be treated fairly. TCHO says that most farmers have never even tasted their own products! Instead, they harvest the beans and ship them off to their buyers without any say in the process from bean to chocolate. TCHO saw this and wanted to do things differently.
Intro TCHOSource: the way that TCHO does business with their suppliers to ensure the best possible product. This means working closely with the suppliers in each country to produce their flavor profiles as well as helping access other markets through improved product quality. TCHO didn’t just want to buy good beans; they wanted to help make the best ones.
“Fair Trade is definitely important in the cacao industry,” says Katie Gilmer, TCHOSource Manager who’s traveled to Peru and Ghana to meet with suppliers and make sure everyone’s happy. “There are so many terrible human rights abuses that’ve been documented in the industry. Fair trade is a good step moving forward against those abuses.”
Just like Our Hands for Hope, TCHO’s powerhouse suppliers are in Peru.
“Other than being a great cacao region, Peru’s economy is growing,” says Katie. “Part of it is that their government has been favorable to economic growth, they have the natural resources, and this entrepreneurial spirit in their people. Peruvians just have this drive on top of their already rich culture with food, colors, fabrics, etc.”
We agree with her there! Just like us with our knits, TCHO buys their beans directly from their country or origin, sourcing everything on their own and importing into the US. What is unique about them, however, is that they are establishing flavor labs where they source their beans. By doing this, TCHO works with the growers to do quality control throughout harvest.
“Once harvest is done there are no more adjustments you can make in processing to give the buyer what they’re looking for,” says Katie. “The flavor labs allows us to be more nimble in our cocoa production to get our optimal flavor profile. Then, we can have specific flavor profiles to differentiate quality levels for different customers. A big part of that is training people how to taste, and having them taste what they’ve made.”
TCHO is currently working to encourage other chocolate producers to use their flavor labs so that they’re producing the best product for their buyers.
“It may be more competition for us, “says Katie, “but it helps everyone in the end.”
Here’s to TCHO. A New American Chocolate company with not only a great product but who’s also serving a great purpose. Check them out at Pier 17 in San Francisco, and sign up for a free factory tour to really see what they’re all about.
TCHeers to TCHO!
By: Cinthya Rubio, Marketing Director @ Our Hands For Hope
Gala, age 50 from Trujillo, Peru was affected with polio as a child. This has left her with a life long, leg disability. She is a single mother with a 17 year old daughter, Michella. Despite her disability, Gala has always had a smile on her face and a very positive attitude, which she has gracefully passed on to her daughter.
Over the years, Gala’s health problems have increased, one of her kneecaps has made it more difficult for her to move around. The only way for her to relieve some of the pain is to have knee surgery, but with a very limited income she has had to put this procedure off.
Today, with the help of Our Hands for Hope she is part of a network of women that have the sole objective of working together and helping each other. Violeta, our Peruvian coordinator, sent word about Gala’s need for surgery and asked if we would be willing to increase one of our orders by just five items… The women had come together offering to hand knit the extra pieces and donate their earnings to cover the cost of Gala’s surgery. Together, the women have created beautiful alpaca knits and have raised enough money to pay for her surgery!
Here is a video that Gala’s family sent to us:
Gala has received the needed surgery and is recovering nicely. Gala’s story warms our heart, seeing how our knitting community came together to help her is priceless. But none of this would be possible without you. With your purchases, we are helping women help themselves.
We’re in the press!
This last month we had the privilege of attending and showcasing at the Fashion Market Northern California in San Mateo. We met some great people, made lasting connections, wrote orders for some fantastic new stores and got to show more people the talent behind Our Hands for Hope. Read below to see the full article that was in the California Apparel News.
Steady Regional Business at FMNC for Established Brands and New Resources
By Sarah Wolfson | Thursday, June 27, 2013
SAN MATEO, Calif.—Business was steady and productive at Fashion Market Northern California, held June 23–25 at the San Mateo County Event Center.The regional trade show served as a showcase for returning and new brands, including several with a sustainable or philanthropic message, according to FMNC Executive Director Suzanne De Groot.
June markets, which typically showcase Holiday merchandise, tend to be smaller but bring in loyal buyers looking for Immediate deliveries and necessity goods.
Don Reichman, an exhibitor at FMNC, said this is an important market particularly because it falls between the large LA shows in March for Fall and in October for Spring. Reichman is treasurer of the Golden Gate Apparel Association (GGAA), which organizes the FMNC show.
Northern California stores can come to the June FMNC show to fill in orders for Holiday. Retailers from Northern California, Oregon, Washington and Colorado came to the show, particularly because it is easy to shop, he said.
Napa Valley, Calif.–based retailer Barbara Wiggins of Mustard Seed described FMNC as more convenient for her than other markets. “I love this show. You can find it all, and everyone is so nice. I am shopping for an annual fashion-show fundraiser for Queen of the Valley Medical Center and looking to find pieces specifically for the event, knowing I will find it all here,” Wiggins said.
Steve Alpert, president of GGAA, said when he asks retailers why they attend the show, feedback is always consistent. “It is the friendliest show to attend, and that has become a theme for us,” he said, crediting the open-booth format and the quality of vendors.
Returning exhibitor Gabriela Shultz of Adorn Thyself showroom in San Francisco said although the first two days were steady, the last day of the show typically was “jamming.” Shultz carries brands such as American Colors, a collection of tunic shirts in a range of fabrications that wholesale for $79–$95.
Myrrhia Resneck, owner of Myrrhia Fine Knitwear, was a first-time FMNC exhibitor who released her collection in February 2012. Her merchandise—which ranges from sweaters to cardigans, scarves, dresses and tops—comes in merino wool, organic California-grown cotton and Tencel. Wholesale price points for accessories start at $20 and go up to $40 while garments range from $60 to $130.
“I would love for my designs to speak for themselves, but [being eco-friendly] is a part of my own concern,” Resneck said. “I want to produce apparel in a sustainable and ethical manner.” Resneck said she wants to make clothes that help women succeed in their professional careers while helping them still express their individuality and not be in some kind of uniform.
By the second day of the show, her expectations were met. Resneck said she established new relationships with boutique owners and landed several orders. The Oakland, Calif.–based apparel brand participated in FMNC because it was the most cost-effective approach, and after attending, she said, “Everyone was supportive, and the organizers were [equally] committed in making sure everyone is successful at the show. There is almost a community here.”
Several exhibitors at FMNC were showing hand-crafted apparel and accessories from companies with a humanitarian mission.
Napa Valley–based apparel company Our Hands for Hope produces apparel and accessories hand-knit in Peru.
Founded by Terisa Brooks-Huddleston, the company was created in partnership with two non-governmental organizations (NGOs), Creation Peru and New Hope International, according to Cinthya Rubio, Our Hands for Hope’s marketing specialist.
While Huddleston is responsible for 90 percent of the design process, it is a collaboration between the designer and the knitters. All of the pieces are named after the Peruvian women. The company currently employs 60 people in Peru but is expanding.
“It is a fair-trade business,” Rubio said, adding that everything is made-to-order. “We try to make the process as efficient as possible, and, so far, it has been working.”
Each piece is made from Alpaca with some wool and acrylic blends to keep the shape of the item. Large blankets can wholesale up to $174 while a headband wholesales for much lower.
Our Hands for Hope primarily retails to local specialty boutiques but recently landed an order with the Denver International Airport. “We pulled a lot people in here at market because they are attracted to our [brand] story,” Rubio said.
Sasa Designs jewelry is produced by a team of deaf artisans in Kenya under the direction of a nonprofit organization that invests its profits into services for the deaf. Sasa provides training, administration and a workshop where the jewelry makers can work independently. Wholesale price points for the delicately beaded necklaces and bracelets range between $4 and $20.
“We try and minimize our external influence to focus on sales and marketing and a bit of management, but our main focus is empowering these women,” said Megan MacDonald, Sasa’s director of global enterprise. “Our motto is to create timeless pieces that we can update season to season with color and materials so we are not retraining every time we produce a new line. Most of what I do is putting colors and concepts together versus complete redesign. So the wire techniques that are used in the new line are a reflection of trying to bring a little of Kenya in everything we do.”
MacDonald, who splits her time between Kenya and California, was upbeat about the buyer response at FMNC. “It has been great here at market,” she said. “Although it started slow, I picked up new vendors in diverse locations. I don’t want to saturate a particular town.”
Partners Cynthia Carle and Elaine Aronson of Oofkas make cuffs to accessorize a jacket or an outfit. A portion of their sales goes to Girls Learn International, an organization that encourages education around the world, including India, Pakistan and Africa. The Los Angeles–based company offers three styles, ranging from basic denim and gray to flashier versions, wholesale priced from $12.50 to $19.50.