We talked to Gaston Montenegro, Founder and CEO at Pacalpa about sustainable garments of exceptional quality and here is what he said about it.
First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Gaston Montenegro: My close family and I are well, and fortunately, none of us have suffered from the covid-19 virus. So, compared to many people, we feel lucky. Thank you for asking.
Tell us about you, your career, how you founded Pacalpa.
Gaston Montenegro: I’m from Argentina, but I have lived in Scotland for some years now. I founded several businesses in Argentina and the USA in the past, and when we decided to move to the UK, I knew that sooner or later, I would open a business, but first, I would need to understand the market and how everything works here. So after a few years, Pacalpa was born. We bring the most exclusive alpaca garments from Peru and Argentina and offer them to all of Europe and the rest of the world.
How does Pacalpa innovate?
Gaston Montenegro: Preservation. Communities. Environment. These 3 pillars are the key values of the Peruvian artisans who have inhabited the Peruvian highlands for thousands of years, developing a unique tradition of skilled craftsmanship. Inspired by this vision, Pacalpa looks to combine traditional heritage with modern sustainable techniques.
We also believe in sustainable production, and we do not envision a trade-off between profit and people or between manufacturing and environmental responsibility. Similar to most clothing brands, we do not own the factories where our garments are made. However, together with the factories that we collaborate with, we bear the responsibility of providing a safe, fair, and ethical working environment for everyone involved in the manufacturing process of our garments. At Pacalpa, we not only look for a high-quality product at a reasonable price; but we also believe in assuming a great deal of responsibility for our actions. Our consumers are not just interested in the quality of the products they purchase, they also care about the work behind the brand and the social and environmental conditions of its production process. Sustainability is just as much about social standards as environmental issues. At Pacalpa, we want sustainable and healthy development for people and the environment. Our responsibility is seeking out the suppliers who can ensure that no one involved in our production, be it a supplier or a subcontractor, is denied their most basic human rights or suffers any harm. Our conscious choice of suppliers is based on long-term relationships and our supply policy. Together with our suppliers, we are committed to providing a safe, fair and ethical working environment.
How does the coronavirus pandemic affect your business finances?
Gaston Montenegro: At the beginning of the pandemic, as in all businesses, we had to adapt quickly and coordinate our warehousing more efficiently. We had very low sales in certain products, but in others, such as Blankets or Throws, sales have skyrocketed because people had to spend more time indoors doing quarantine and were looking to indulge themselves with a luxury, good quality garment.
Did you have to make difficult choices regarding human resources, and what are the lessons learned?
Gaston Montenegro: Latin American countries such as Argentina and Peru do not have the government support that countries in Europe may have, which is why our partners there had many problems adapting to the new normal and unfortunately had to dismiss employees who have not yet returned to their jobs. We continue to speak out to try to bring some peace of mind to those Aboriginal families who have seen their jobs fade away, and that is why we created a support fund for them, which is working very well.
How did your customer relationship management evolve? Do you use any specific tools to be efficient?
Gaston Montenegro: Our business has always been online-based, so in that sense, not much has changed, and we still use the same CRM tools as before the pandemic. We are also always looking for new ways of communicating with our customers to strengthen the relationships and have fluidity in our day-to-day interactions.
Did you benefit from any government grants, and did that help keep your business afloat?
Gaston Montenegro: Fortunately, we have had help from the UK government that has allowed us to continue our operations in an ‘almost normal’ way, and we believe that there may be other help that we could receive as well, but we are convinced that this will end sooner rather than later and we will not need any more external support.
Your final thoughts?
Gaston Montenegro: We all had hard times, especially in the last year with the pandemic.
I think the most important thing is what we do with it and how we turn it positively in our lives and learn from it every step of the way. The other day I was talking to my son about the importance of this and how to focus on the positive, on what still needs to be achieved rather than what hasn’t been done. I think this ultimately defines us as people, as human beings, what we bring to this world, and, despite setbacks, what added value we can offer to others
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