Chico's x The Andean Collection

On a balmy spring day in 2011, I met with the creators behind The Andean Collection at their Williamsburg, New York office. Founded by Amanda Judge in 2008, The Andean Collection works with Ecuadorian artisans specializing in jewelry design with indigenous materials, seeds and stones. Bria Bergman and Jessica Casper are integral to the team, bringing their background in business development and creative design respectively to grow and expand the brand. After looking at their product assortment and aesthetic, I was instantly excited and saw potential for The Andean Collection to work with other brands on collaborations.  Soon after the meeting, I forwarded their linesheets, lookbooks and information to my good friend, Hea Won Chun Harris, VP of Concept and Trend at Chico’s.  She kindly connected The Andean Collection to the Chico’s accessories team to start the co-brand discussion. Bria and Jessica had already proven that their eye and business model would resonate with the average consumer; their successful partnership with Anthropologie had already proven so, and I strongly believed that Chico would also see the potential of this project.

A month later, Bria informed me that the Chico’s partnership was a “Go”.  Awesome news!  Chico's loved them too!

I had scheduled a research and sourcing trip in South America in December and was hoping to stopover in Ecuador.

Fast-forward eight months later, I found myself headed down for my first trip to Ecuador, and took the opportunity to visit a few of The Andean Collection’s artisans who I had learned so much about.  I wanted to see how they were coming along with creating the Chico’s capsule collection.

Upon arrival, my lungs filled with the crisp, fresh, thin Andean air that only comes at this high altitude. After I reached my destination, I took in the postcard-perfect, sweeping views over the crop filled valleys and cloud filled mountains ranges…this magnificent experience was a wake-up call to all my senses.  It's hard not to fall in love with Ecuador instantly.

At Otavolo, Nancy Moran, Carlos Salazar, Olga Moran and Cesar Yamberla welcomed us with open arms into their home workshops high above Otovalo.  They graciously showed us the materials (natural seeds) to the process they use, (the sanding, coloring and assembly process), as well as the exclusive colors and dyes that Chico’s chose for their line jewelry collaboration and the final products.  It was a treat to see the concept from start to finish. The prototypes look FANTASTIC!  I’m now more certain than ever that this partnership will work out splendidly.

The success of the Andean Collection’s sales and past partnerships have generated enough revenue for artisans like Nancy, Carlos, Olga and Cesar to add build/expand production additional rooms in to their home workshops. These extra funds have helped support as well as help fund the extended families' education and health care costs.

A Recap from Bria Bergman, Director of Business Development & Private Label Design at The Andean Collection:

After almost a year of working with Chico’s, we’re thrilled to announce that Chico’s will be carrying exclusive Andean Collection designs in 50 of their stores and online in June 2012.

The Chico’s experience was so positive mainly because of their merchandising and design team, headed by Doreen McFadden. The process went so smoothly because we were kept abreast of what the clients needs were from the beginning, namely, the desired cost of product, margins, and design direction. In past experiences, we have spent weeks going back and forth with a client negotiating the cost of an item. Knowing the desired cost the client needs upfront, we can make any design tweaks that will ensure their needs are met and avoid unnecessary back and forth. It was also really helpful having inspiration and silhouettes upfront, conveying the look and feel the client wanted to portray.

In addition, Chico’s design team was inspiring to work with. They challenged us to use our materials in innovative ways, which are reflected in our designs for Chico’s.

Chico’s was a great brand to partner with and we hope our line is a best seller for them in Summer 2012!

Chrissie LamEcuadorComment