STARTING FROM SCRATCH
Bolivia is where it all started in 2004. Here our founder fell in love with a remarkable people whose legacy of craftsmanship with llama wool – an exquisite yet little known material to outsiders – inspired her journey to build a sustainable supply chain which would respect the Bolivian people and environment.
Bolivia is a stunning, diverse, and rugged country. It has a population of 11 million and almost 50% of its citizens identify as indigenous, belonging to 38 recognized groups and speaking over 37 languages. Bolivia’s ecosystems are equally unique, ranging from wetlands and forest in the lowlands to high plateaus and peaks in the Andes mountains.
There is no Aiayu without the incredible fiber of llama wool. All of our Bolivian products are made from this base material.
BUILDING A SUSTAINABLE BUSINESS
When we began searching for production partners in Bolivia, the country did not have an established textile industry. This meant that while there were a few firms exporting raw llama fiber, we could not find any facilities which could produce knitwear on a larger scale in the country.
However, we still felt strongly that all production should be done in Bolivia. Factories can be built, machines bought, and employees trained – but Bolivians’ expertise and connection with llama wool is irreplaceable. Also, it was important to us that any economic development from our llama wool production benefit the Bolivian people and economy. So we decided to take on the challenge of building something truly sustainable from the ground up.
Partnering with the Danish International Development Agency and a Dutch non-profit, Aiayu was able to build the first knitwear factory in Bolivia – which has now become a model for sustainable production in the country.
We built everything in our Bolivian facility according to the highest standards, protecting the environment, the workers, and their rights. The factory was the first in La Paz to implement a water recycling plant, cleaning 100% of its wastewater and reusing 75% of it. It is also the only factory in La Paz with a WRAP-certification, a leading certification in responsible manufacturing.
We are exceedingly proud of this joint-effort with our Bolivian partners to bring this wonderful material and legacy of craftsmanship to customers around the world.
THE ART OF KNITTING
We make both handknit and machine knit llama wool products. Our handknit items are individual works of art. Each garment is ‘signed’ with the initials of the Bolivian woman who made it as a personal greeting from her to you.
Each design can take up to several weeks to complete. All of our machine-knit items go through a piece by piece quality control process and are always carefully finished by hand.
All of our items are made with incredible care, passion, and attention to detail – using techniques that have been passed down for centuries. Our years of experience with the same material and manufacturer has led to a consistency in quality that you can count on.
ABOUT LLAMA WOOL
Our llama wool is sourced directly from traditional, small family farms in the Bolivian highlands. The llamas freely roam around during the day – gently grazing in their natural mountain habitat – and return home to the farms at night.
Llama fiber has evolved to match this rugged mountain environment – it is long and hollow, making it not only highly durable and resistant to pilling, but also extremely effective at insulation. It is also naturally hypoallergenic as no lanolin is added during processing. One llama sheds 2-3 kilos of raw wool per year, but only the highest quality fibers from this are selected to be used in Aiayu products.
Llama wool comes in 14 beautiful colors – ranging from lighter whites and greys to darker brown and black shades. To minimize our use of dyes we always try to integrate these natural colours into our collections.