From Humble Beginnings
Women Talking talks to Antonia Valentin Jacob, founder of Lacorine – Exquisite alpaca Designs, producing unique Fairtrade alpaca clothing and gifts from the finest, ethically sourced textiles from Peru.
Many businesses have had to change their approach due to the restrictions of the COVID-19 pandemic and Lacorine is of no exception. As a fashion and gift retailer, Antonia’s most buoyant business was from the hands-on approach at trade, Christmas and regional fairs. “People fall in love with my teddy bears once they have felt their softness and cuddliness” states Antonia. “Fluffy collectables are the perfect, unique luxury gift for children, new babies and teddy bear lovers and the local shows and fairs were the perfect outlet to showcase my range.”
“My fashion wear has a similar effect, once you have stroked one of our soft alpaca fur hats or worn one of our shawls or capes you will be smitten for life! Our hats are unbelievably warm yet so light you barely feel them on your head. Once you try them on, there is no turning back, you are a dedicated customer forever, due to the exceptional quality, look and feel.”
“With ongoing restrictions, public events have been cancelled and I now rely on my website and online sales. As a company we are trying to embrace online marketing, using different platforms to reach new audiences. They say it is never too late to stop learning and, in this instance, I tend to agree, the world of technology has a lot to offer businesses in retail, it’s just a matter of pulling it all together, to see what works for you! Sadly, like many, my income has been damaged by the pandemic which consequently has a knock-on effect with our artisans in Peru too.”
Antonia came to the UK in 1987 from her hometown of Lima in Peru when she was 21. From an innocent question from her then 4-year-old daughter asking where she was from? She responded, from Peru. With that, her daughter asked if she could go there. It was a shocking reality that Antonia had forgotten about her past, since making her life in the UK and integrating into the British way of living. However, inspired by her daughters’ interest this encouraged a visit back to her roots in 2006.
With the combined interest of sustainable fashion and the love of natural products, the family visit to Peru inspired the launch of Lacorine. “It was a way of mixing the two cultures, reminding me of my humble beginning as well as the opportunity to give something back to the communities in Peru and to fulfil the lack of alpaca products in the UK.” Quotes Antonia.
“Our clothing lines are designed by me and handmade in Peru by highly skilled artisans who live in remote villages, using skills that have been passed down through generations. Finding these talented artisans is no mean feat and local knowledge and contacts are key. The fact that I’m from Peru has enabled us to create lasting relationships centred on trust and respect and the love of the alpaca itself.”
“They embrace new ideas and this has been excellent for our growing and collaboration they have allowed me to put my input on the designs and that has given me to have access to quality control and the use of the finest materials to create sustainable and timeless fashion. Lacorine, creates an income for the artisans by committing forward the capital to buy materials for the next season. Therefore, the commitment is from both sides plus their achievement pushes me to carry on because without our orders they will not have a living, it is nice to see them grow and for the children to go to further education.”
“I spend a great deal of time sourcing and designing my collection while on the ground in Peru which ensure each item is of the highest quality.”
“Lacorine fur derives from alpacas that have died naturally during the harsh Peruvian Winters when many young crias (young alpaca) are overcome by the conditions. In the Andes of Peru as well as the severe cold it also rains frequently causing landslides which add to the number of crias dying. This is a great loss to the herdsmen whose livelihoods depend on the alpaca fleeces produced throughout the animal’s life. We, therefore, utilise this opportunity of recycling the fur in a sustainable way without polluting the environment.”
“Offering exquisite, timeless designs to my clients is extremely satisfying. One of the many highlights has been watching the Duchess of Cambridge and her sister Pippa Middleton wear one of our hats. I am simply representing the artisans from Peru but the credit goes to them, and is nice to know that you have been accepted by the public.”