Maite Co., Ltd.Yoshida Ayako
Please tell us about Maite’s alpaca knitwear to protect the heart and body from cold and stress.
Maite Co.,Ltd. designs, manufactures, and sells apparel using alpaca materials, which is great at retaining heat and releasing moisture. Our original brand, MAITE, provides knitwear for women suffering from colds. It features simple designs, which make our products perfect business wear. While a surprisingly large number of women are suffering from cold hands and feet, they have little knowledge about clothing materials. I hope to bring comfort and healing into their lives through the texture of our products and give them opportunities to re-think clothing materials.
Most of our products are manufactured in Peru, from which our raw materials are also procured, while some products are manufactured in Japan. More than 80% of the global alpaca fabric production is from South America. In Peru, which accounts for a large portion of it, textiles using alpaca materials form a traditional industry whose roots can be traced to more than 5,000 years ago. Today, approximately 5 million native people are keeping alpacas in the high Andes at an altitude much higher than that of Mt. Fuji. Our company purchases alpaca wool from them at fair prices and makes products using strings from spinning companies for which we provide training on alpaca keeping and shearing. Through this business model, we promote transparent manufacturing with local women and craftsmen living in the poor areas in the capital city, Lima, and workers at factories in Japan.
We develop our designs based on many interviews and testing with our customers. The pursuit of quality materials, simple designs, and ethical production background are the differentiators of our products.
Tell us what made you start your own business.
What inspired me to start my company was my experience from the previous job and my interest in international cooperation, which I have had since I was a college student. I used to be involved in a project to create income opportunities for women in the poor areas of Peru through the manufacturing of hand-knitted scarves. Through this experience, I grew to have a strong interest in the potential of manufacturing business and the empowerment of women.
After I graduated from college, I got a job as an apparel production manager to learn how manufacturing business is conducted in the real world. I saw that overseas factories of the company were creating many jobs in a global environment. But my discomfort with the massive waste and ever-increasing homogenous products grew year after year.
With a view to creating something that is to be cherished by the customers for years, I started to think about starting my business using the alpaca materials that I came across by chance. Around that time, an acquaintance of mine passed away. That made me decide to do what I really wanted to do, not “someday,” but “today.”
Tell us about the future developments.
Women’s empowerment and social participation have strongly been advocated, but there is enormous pressure and stress in the working environment for women. I hope that more women who suffer from cold hands and feet and sensitive skin know about alpaca materials, which is little known at the moment, and contribute to creating time for physical and mental self-care through fashion in the busy day-to-day life.
South America is actually even further than Africa from Japan. Information from the area is very limited and we have little chance to know about it. From this year, we have regularly had pop-up shops, events, and a “Knit Cafe” where people can directly see and touch our products, at a community facility run by a private company in Minato-ku.
I would like to create more opportunities to create direct connections with our customers and local people, communicate different cultures and the joy of creation, and raise awareness on the issue of apparel waste.