Conscious steps. Concern over the dramatic climate change that is being felt worldwide has motivated a number of businesspeople to come up with business models which are more environmentally friendly. And in this sense, Peru has been no exception.
This is the idea behind Evea Eco Fashion, a brand that has been revolutionizing the Peruvian market thanks to its innovative concept: creating practical shoes and accessories from natural rubber from the Para rubber tree, a plant that grows only in the Peruvian Amazon.
How did it come about?
This startup was created by three friends and colleagues: Cristian Gutiérrez and Jorge Cajacuri had a strong knowledge of the raw material and Celeste Moreno was the expert in fashion design. Together they created the perfect formula to bring to life what has long been their most ambitious business project.
The idea of setting up a socially responsible company emerged in 2014, after Jorge and Christian shared a trip to the Peruvian Amazon. Aboard a small boat, they traveled down the Nieva River until they reached the Centro Fuerte community, where they met a group of craftswomen who work with natural rubber, which they extract by scraping the bark of the rubber tree.
Once they had become more familiar with the subject, and amazed by the friendly forest life of the community that received them, they went back to Lima with a much clearer idea: to use natural rubber to make biotextile prototypes that would drive responsible production. Celeste arrived shortly after to take care of the aesthetics of the shoes.
It took the team a little over a year to find the star formula for their product, as they had a number of failed attempts when experimenting with the material. Finally, with a little help from a chemist, they managed to find the final composition.
What are Evea’s shoes like?
Each shoe model is made with organic cotton from the rainforest, complying with the Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS), and recycled fabric from Lima factories. In addition, all the soles are made from natural rubber sheets. The product is also cruelty free and holds the PETA – Approved Vegan certification.
“Evea shoes have both a social and an environmental impact because the communities involved in their production obtain economic income from the Amazon forest without depleting it. This is why we work with communities in the Amazon Rainforest who collect latex from the rubber tree without cutting it down and respect its life cycle," says Cristian Gutiérrez, co-founder of Evea Eco Fashion.
Currently, the young entrepreneurs are trying out a new biotextile which is also made with rubber from the Para rubber tree, which can be used to produce accessories such as suitcases, wallets and backpacks with the aim of replacing plant leather.
Evea Eco Fashion currently works on its products with 17 families who live in three Awajún communities, which are located in the province of Condorcanqui in the Amazon region. This area of Peru has a total of 1,479 Para rubber trees. In fact, thanks to this initiative, the entrepreneurs, along with Sernanp, Serfor, the Provincial Municipality of Condorcanqui and PNU, managed to get this area protected from illegal logging.
"This social company’s focus will significantly contribute to the protection and survival of the planet for future generations. In our particular case, we can see how sustainable fashion can help us conserve our forests and biodiversity, the main national comparative value that outlines the creation of future Peruvian biofashion," says Gutiérrez.
Evea Eco Fashion has managed to create partnerships which have benefited certain communities in the Amazon region. Thanks to its agreement with the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the National Service of Natural Areas Protected by the State (Sernanp), it has been possible to improve the quality of life of 59 families who live in the Saasa, Kachi, Kuith Yutupis, Kagkas, Inayuam and Nueva Jersusalén communities.
In 2018, Evea Eco Fashion won Tic Americas awards in the Startup Challenge and Best Peruvian Startup categories. In 2017, it won the Green Latin America Award for Responsible Production and Consumption.
The Evea Eco Fashion shoes can be bought in store at Beeversa and Vernácula. They can also be bought online at evea-ecofashion.com.
Sources: Evea Eco Fashion/ Somos/ Trome