In 1992 Nick Brown established Páramo’s® ethical production facility in Bogotá, Colombia in South America. Working as part of a social program with the ‘Miquelina Foundation’, Páramo® provides valuable skills to ‘at risk’ women seeking an improvement in their lives.
Páramo and Nick are now keen to extend the successful Miquelina model to provide practical community projects elsewhere in the world.
|The beginnings of ‘Creaciones Miquelina’|
|In 1977, a Colombian nun, Esther Castano Mejia, decided that to achieve her aims she needed to offer practical as well as spiritual help. She belongs to a religious order (Las Adoratrices) dedicated to rescuing women and girls from prostitution. With a few secondhand machines she started a sewing workshop. So began Creaciones Miquelina, called after her religious order, founded by Sister Micaela.|
|The partnership with Páramo|
Contact was first made between Miquelina and Páramo® in 1992. Progress had already been made, with a small factory situated in a complex mostly dedicated to training and education. Miquelina provided the practical experience to trainees enabling them to apply for jobs in other factories, but at this stage was not a commercially viable manufacturer.
In 2002 Miquelina obtained ISO 9001 accreditation, a highly prestigious international award that assures dedication to quality. The factory has excellent facilities, the most up-to-date computer-aided cutting and pattern-making machinery and a staff of more than 150.
The profits of the factory are reinvested in equipment, and significant donations are made to the other associated projects, including a housing co-operative, kindergarten, and training. Miquelina has developed from being a small section of a charity that survived on donations, to becoming a significant source of employment and funding for community projects. Some 320 women are trained each year by the Foundation.
Madre Esther is still extremely active but more recently has dedicated herself to the barrio (district) in Bogotá where Miquelina has been able to make significant additional contributions, including the building of 17 houses. More than 70 sewing ladies now own their own houses there. It is a very poor area and the nuns have been able to create a community centre, a kindergarten for 150 children and a canteen where a further 400 local children can eat daily.
In December 2003, Miquelina received the prestigious annual 'Contribution to the Community' award, recognising the Foundation's achievements. This award came from the leading Colombian newspaper 'El Tiempo' and business magazine 'Portafolio', and was presented by the Colombian President.
The co-operation between Páramo® and Miquelina allows two very different visions to be achieved. Páramo® produces innovative top quality high performance clothing for the outdoors. The Miquelina Foundation works for the liberation of marginalised and oppressed women. The partnership works.
|Páramo adds manufacturing in Vietnam|
|In 2005 Páramo began producing the expanding range of Trek & Travel wear, windproof and insulating garments in Vietnam. A key reason was to prevent Miquelina becoming overloaded, as the factory had reached 100% capacity at times in the previous winter due to the growth in demand for Páramo.
Miquelina's great expertise is working with our Analogy waterproofs; by going to Vietnam (and more recently Taiwan) we are able to utilise their expertise in lightweight fabric so matching our renowned fabric quality with even better finish. These alternative manufacturing facilities are always inspected carefully before we decided to use them to ensure that they fulfil all our ethical manufacturing criteria. During the manufacturing process we have two members of UK staff present to monitor conditions and check production quality.
Nick Brown and Páramo are very keen to use this to explore the options to create another 'Miquelina-style' manufacturing facility that can provide real benefits to the workers and their dependents, elsewhere in the world.