Eugenia is the founder and creative director of the handcrafted textiles brand Andes. Born and raised in Patagonia, Eugenia founded Andes to showcase the incredible "treasures" and artisan makers of her homeland, driven by a passion to keep their cultural traditions alive.
In this interview, Eugenia dives into the story behind her incredible brand, gives advice for making ethical purchases, plus shares with us her insider travel tips for travelling across the Andes.
Can you tell us a little about your background and the origins for Andes?
I’ve lived in London for nearly six years now, and Andes is a project and brand that represents my culture, values and (previous) life in Argentina.
I grew up in Patagonia, moved to Buenos Aires and spent a big proportion of my adult life over there. Andes was born with the intention to show the world what the argentine skilled artisans are capable of, and what the Andes can offer. It's an immense place filled with so many treasures.
"Within Argentina, there are many different cultures, traditions, weaving techniques, and accents. Andes’ ethos and purpose is to keep these traditions alive, to ensure their products are showcased and known by the entire world."
The preservation of local culture, tradition and community is at the heart of Andes’ ethos - why is this so important to you?
Argentina is a very large country, the eighth largest one in the world in fact. Within, there are many different cultures, traditions, weaving techniques, and accents. Andes’ ethos and purpose is to keep these traditions alive, to ensure their products are showcased and known by the entire world.
We want to preserve their heritage and traditions not only because they’re unique but also because they make up what we are as a country. The Andes, though, is more than Argentina. It’s the longest continental mountain range in the world and covers South America. We’re exploring new products and sourcing new artisan partnerships to ensure we can showcase more than Argentina, such as Bolivia, Peru, Ecuador, Colombia, Venezuela, etc.
You work with craftspeople in very remote areas of Argentina. How do you approach working with these people and what can we learn from them?
When Andes was born, nearly two years ago, the sourcing process was fascinating – one of the best things that I’ve ever done in my life. There’s a lot of good products that can be purchased in Buenos Aires, via intermediaries. Although that wasn’t what I wanted to do, I wanted to meet the artisans, see their lives, meet their families, become their friend.
I drove over 3,000 kms to find the artisans in northern Argentina and in Patagonia. It was just great. I found them and it was very inspiring – the way they live and work, their kindness, the pace of their lives. It gives you clear perspective of other things in life, and makes you understand more about their culture and traditions, and ultimately my own country. I’ve learned a lot from them, beyond their skills and talent, they’re extremely nice people that are super proud of selling their products around the world.
"There’s a lot of good products that can be purchased in Buenos Aires, via intermediaries. Although that wasn’t what I wanted to do, I wanted to meet the artisans, see their lives, meet their families, become their friend... it's one of the best things I've ever done"
Can you tell us more about your design process and its influences?
This varies depending on the material that the artisan uses, and the thickness of the wool. Some lighter materials allow us to work with shapes, while thicker wool is a bit more restrictive, and stripes are more common.
My signature influence though is the Earth – the colour palette that I use is very much the colours of the earth – sand, off-white, olive green, chocolate & tobacco. They’re the colours from where these products come from, but they also bring peace and calm to any home. I work with artisans’ suggestions based on their expertise so it’s a shared process of creativity.
What advice can you give to consumers looking to make more ethical purchases?
To purchase an Andes product! In all seriousness, the world has massively changed, there’s lot of advice out there and consumers are more conscious about their purchases now. Andes works with artisans and for artisans. And that’s what I love of Akojo Market – that brings all the good products out there and puts them together for consumers. It does take time to read about the product, learn the process behind it – but it’s worth it, and at the end of the day you feel better by making an ethical purchase.
There’s no point in accumulating a lot of possessions, clothes, homeware qnd jewellery. One can be stylish with little, as long as the product is ethically made, fairly sourced and of good quality. All my products are one of a kind – and this is what makes it truly special.
Do you have any travel tips for The Andes?
It’s funny because I’m from Patagonia – and a big fan of it - but the North of the country is just stunning. I’m extremely grateful with my country and all the opportunities it gave me. If you want to explore lakes, tall mountains and good wine go to Patagonia (Esquel, Villa La Angostura, San Martin de los Andes), but if you fancy a more desert-looking scenery, with very good music (chacarera) and lovely food go to the North (Cerro de los Siete Colores, Purmamarca, Abre Pampa). Either way, you’re going to love it.
Discover Andes' collection of earth-inspired cushions, throw, rugs and hats here.