Otavalo, Ecuador is the place where we started in business more than 25 years ago, and my guess is that with people this creative and dynamic, we’ll be doing business 25 years from now.
Otavalo’s weaving tradition dates back millennia, and we still come here for scarves laboriously woven on antique wooden looms. Our weaving supplier learned his art from his father, and sales of our scarves help keep that tradition alive. Since the eighties, Otavalo has also become a renowned knitting center, sending sweaters and accessories all over the world. Most knitting is done in the home by women who organize into knitting co-ops, and our Children’s Sweaters are a particularly sweet example of Otavalan ingenuity and design.
Set in the Andes of Ecuador at an altitude of 8600 feet, Otavalo is nestled in a paradise-green valley below the misty heights of Imbabura. Astoundingly beautiful, this area is also the source of many of the roses and cut flowers sold in North America.
The Otavaleños are one of the most unusual indigenous groups in the world. Tiny of stature, dressed in their beautiful traditional outfits of white and blue, they have a tradition of roaming the world playing Andean music and selling handicrafts.
They can be spotted with pan-pipes and sweaters from the streets of Barcelona to the subways of New York City. Many Otavaleños are tri-lingual, speaking Quichua (the language of the Inca Empire), Spanish, and English. They travel for the adventure, and come back to Otavalo to raise their families and tell their stories. Once second class citizens, in recent years Otavaleños have acquired political power, including the town’s popular Mayor.
The Saturday market in Otavalo is one of the most exciting sights in Latin America. On that day, thousands of Otavaleños come down from the surrounding hills to buy and sell livestock, produce, handicrafts and everything else you can imagine, along with a lot of things you can’t. The streets become a sea of navy blue and white, evidence of one of South America’s most unique and vibrant cultures