Vivica Pietz is the founder of ACHIY, a brand that has an incredible mission and values they should be proud of. They stand for the opposite of exploitation and they see their knitters as artists. A brand to be admired, we spent some time with Vivica to find out more…
Tell us about the journey that lead you to launching Achiy…
ACHIY originated out of the desire to “give back”. I fell in love with the culture, people and textiles of the Peruvian communities during a Volunteer project back in 2014. I was stunned by the colourful and lively clothes and the fact that every pattern has a special meaning. Moreover, what has inspired me most is that the lively textiles lightened up the darkest place. Most of the Peruvian people live in extreme poverty but instead of giving up, they seem to enjoy life with all its challenges and transmit and carry that positivity in their clothing.
Unfortunately, we as modern fashion consumers have completely lost the appreciation for clothing. In Germany for instance, the average shopper purchases 60% more clothing than 15 years ago. Worldwide a truckload full of textiles is thrown away every second. Let alone all the environmental damages that are caused by the Fast Fashion Industry.
I took all of the unique and precious experiences that I had in Peru and formulated one goal: to change the resource-damaging fashion production and encourage more conscious consumption. By returning to the origins of textile art and drawing inspiration from the lives and spirituality of indigenous people, ACHIY manages to bring back meaning into our clothing.
What has been the biggest learning curve since launching the business?
How to best connect sustainability with conventional fashion consumption. In the beginning I assumed that our strong story and mission alone will sell our products. I quickly learned that sustainability definitely plays a role in our purchasing behaviors, however, it is not the dominating driver in most cases. Adapting the mechanisms of the conventional fashion industry and combining it with sustainability measures has been the biggest but also most interesting challenge. Questions like, how do we compete with conventional fast fashion brands (which are representing the mainstream) in terms of pricing, how do we communicate our diverse sustainability message within seconds at the point of purchase or how do we look different and sustainable but still similar too conventional fashion brands to not break “routines” are our constant companion and keep us challenged.
Your company ethos is something to be admired and you do not believe in fast fashion, can you tell us more about what you stand for?
Fashion with a purpose. Inspired by the spirituality of indigenous people, handmade by true artisans in harmony with Mother Nature. This is what we stand for!
ACHIY is one big family. My brother Lennard and I are a Hamburg based slow fashion label with the mission to take fashion back to its origins to give indigenous communities in their countries of origin (our new “families”) the opportunity to make fashion the way it should be – entirely natural, unique and spiritual.
The indigenous origin of our fashion gives each of our handmade artworks a unique story. We started with the country of Peru, the mystical Inca culture and the divinely soft alpaca wool. More countries will follow this year.
What’s the process behind adding new pieces to your collections?
As we are inspired and guided by the traditions, spirituality and textile art of indigenous communities, every piece has to be and is a reflection of these elements. Every single design has to tell a story about the life with and respect for our mother nature. Most of our garments carry traditional symbolism in their designs that each tell these stories. Some of our garments are simply pure to express the simplicity and beauty of nature.
Who’s involved in the brand and what roles do they play?
Our friends and partners in our production countries play a key role for ACHIY. They are the heart of everything. We consider them as true artisans and are guided by their traditions, culture and their handicraft. Without them ACHIY could not exist. All of our artworks are 100% produced in the country of origin. To name them, our sourcing partner or “partner in crime” is Peruvian Traditions. Carlos & Claudia support us in the entire manufacturing process of Achiy’s artworks. From the fine tuning of the designs, sourcing of our baby alpaca wool, supervision of the family production workshops up to the shipping to us in Hamburg. The topics of fair work and sustainability are very important to Carlos and Claudia. Here in Hamburg, my brother Lennard and I run the show with great support from our family and friends.
How do you want people to feel when wearing your designs?
We want them to feel proud. You are doin the right thing when choosing ACHIY.
Our customers know that they are supporting ancient cultures and carry their spirits.
With ACHIY you set a statement for natural and fair clothing.
What sets you apart from other fashion brands?
Our comprehensive approach. We preserve ancient cultures, ancient wisdom and ancient production techniques that have been passed on for hundreds of yours and through many generations. It is natural for us to therefore only work with local materials and produce 100% in the countries of origin. Moreover, we put our producers – our friends – in the forefront of everything we do. It’s not about us. It’s about the local communities worldwide and their knowledge about life in harmony with Mother Nature.
What also sets us apart is our radical transparency. We name all of our partners. We show you the calculations behind our prices. We explain in detail how we live sustainability.
Our goal is to empower the ancient textile artisans around the world and tell their stories. So making this journey as transparent and credible as possible simply feels natural to us.
What’s your WHY?
We want to change the resource-damaging fashion production and consumption
What advice would you offer to anyone wanting to launch a brand in the fashion industry?
You need to be extremely ambitious and you have to hang in there;). The fashion industry is such an overcrowded and complex market which makes it quite challenging to find your place and get heard. But that’s also a very interesting challenge. I would advise to be clear about your purpose. If you are not completely convinced about your WHY it is easy to get demotivated or lose track. The fashion industry is changing. The change towards a more sustainable system offers many opportunities. But again you need to be different and most importantly be credible.
What is your go-to quote when lacking motivation?
I don’t really have a go-to quote. Every time I lack motivation, I think about the people in our production countries. I tell myself that with ACHIY I want to support them in preserving their rich and colorful cultures and that it makes me proud to give work to the traditional knitting artists. That’s all I need.
What’s next for the business?
We are currently looking to expand into new markets and explore other indigenous cultures and their textile traditions. We are already in conversations with local and traditional producers in Mongolia. The country has such a rich and colorful history. We can’t wait to tell the stories about how Mongolian nomads traditionally manufactured textiles.
In the short-term, we are about launch a new material from Peru: pima cotton. It is one of the oldest types of cotton that finds its origins in the Inca empire. Our friend and filmmaker Lizeth from Peru is about to visit the local pima cotton growers to capture their stories and explain the meaning of this precious material to the local communities.