Rachel Kibbe of eco-friendly online store Helpsy joins forces with Hortensia Handmade's Michelle Peglau in a collection that is both head- and heartwarming.
Having met at a party for Fashion Revolution last year, Helpsy’s Rachel Kibbe and Hortensia’s Michelle Peglau sat down to discuss moodboards, fusing their expertise in a stand-out collection. “Michelle has such amazing technical capabilities and history working with knitting and alpaca,” Rachel, who has a design background herself, says before adding: “I don’t know a whole lot about knitting. It seemed a fun thing.”
“Rachel had a vision of what she wanted for Helpsy,” Michelle says. “It was great to share our ideas and see things from another person perspective.” A soft headband crown and puff-ball earrings are currently on sale, with a larger collection of trousers, tops and scarves to be launched for autumn/winter 2015.
Hortensia was set up by Michelle, her mother and another knitter in 2007, but has since grown into using artisans to produce orders. “We want them to be able to work on their own and manage their own time — work from home, take care of their families,” Michelle says. “Empowerment, that’s what we want them to feel; anything is possible.” As their skills are increasingly recognised and praised in the fashion industry, “this is a great time for all artisan-based, fair-trade businesses to grow,” she adds. Her connection to alpaca is strong: growing up in Peru — the largest supplier of the wool in the world — Michelle also grew up wearing alpaca jumpers. “Besides being very gentle and super cute, their wool has amazing qualities — hypoallergenic, warm, soft,” she says. “Alpacas are also eco-friendly animals.”
The conversation moves to sustainable pricing points. The $45 puff-ball earrings — easy to make and inspired by Peruvian necklaces and Tumblr girls — require less yarn than the tightly-knitted crowns. The latter, on the other hand, are more expensive at $150. “With the ‘democratisation’ of fashion, mass consumption is at its max,” Michelle says. “It has to reach a point where people realise that it’s better to invest in quality. I do think that design plays a very important role on consumers’ decision to buy; design has to be right to convince the buyer to invest in that piece, that it’s worth it.” Rachel, meanwhile, is attempting to reach those who — like her — shop design first: “The people who visit Helpsy because they like the stuff, and then become aware of sustainability because of what the website teaches them.”
Michelle also points out the need for cutting middle men. “Artisans should be able to sell their creations directly or with the help of a group that represents their interests,” she says. “NGOs and consultancy groups are now working directly with the artisans, providing guidance and business advice so they can successfully sell their creations.”
As for Rachel, she has another couple of collaborations in the pipeline. “We [Helpsy + Hortensia] lucked out because our working styles work together. Our visions matched: I pitched silhouettes; Michelle designed it to happen. You have to keep in mind that half of the process is communication.”
Photos by Hannah Kristina Metz
Modelling by Kristin Gallegos
Michelle Peglau and Rachel Kibbe.
Photo of Rachel by Rachel Schwartzmann
Words by Emma Lundin
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