Empowering women, strengthening communities

The knitting cooperatives provide reliable jobs and steady income for a segment of the Peru population that has often been overlooked and marginalized for a variety of reasons. This is a bright spot in a country where the poverty rate hovers at 19 percent.

"There's so many women, especially 'mompreneurs', behind this process. Anna's a mom, I'm a mom, and a lot of the knitters and knitting leaders we work with are moms... They are women who are wanting or needing to stay in their home to be close to the children or closer to their children and need some sort of income that can give way to that and allow them to do that... And being able to provide work that women are able to fashion around their own lives and take on as much or as little as they want... there's a lot of flexibility that comes with the work. And that I think is one of the biggest values. Because it's the inflexibility of the traditional job structure that marginalizes a lot of these people that really have a lot of value to offer."

— Kelly P., Managing Director/Owner, & one of our knitting partners

How the cooperatives work

At Misha & Puff, we work directly with our knitting partners in Peru. Our partners work directly with their knitting leaders. Think of knitting leaders as sub-contractors. The knitting leaders have their own groups—or cooperatives—of knitters who they pay for their knitting expertise.

Informality vs. Formality

When talking about labor in Peru, you might hear the terms "formality" and "informality." This is a complex topic that we encourage you to read more about. An article published by the International Labour Organization cites statistics that say "73 percent of employed work [in Peru] is in informal conditions." This affects more than 12 million workers, mainly women.

The short of it goes like this: Informal employment lacks social protections and clean working conditions, among other things. The move to "formality" ensures workers have better protections. But like any change, it takes time.

One of our knitting partners explained the process to us: "We work with a knitting leader who's set up as a company that's formalized with the Peruvian tax entity... because the Peruvian tax entity also requires us to work with formalized entities."

The knitters set their own payment terms with their knitting leaders.

The knitters in the cooperatives also decide how much work they take on. Collaborating with their knitting leaders, they negotiate payment terms based on what goes into knitting and assembling a garment.

Every pattern is different. When we come up with a new design at Misha & Puff, the knitting leader and their knitters assigned to the design will produce a sample and quote a price. How much time goes into making a garment helps us determine the final cost. (But many other factors contribute to final cost besides the actual knitting—there's the material itself, the hand-dyeing, the quality control process, and so forth.)

Where and when the knitting takes place

Knitters might opt to work in their knitting leader's space or from their own homes (or a combination). This flexibility is critical. Flexible, part-time work allows knitters to be home with their children.

The steady work and regular pay also offer an alternative to other work that would likely require not only long commutes, but also long stretches away from their kids. Giving moms the chance to earn income while being home with their children during their formative years has helped strengthen local communities.

Knitting Cooperatives at a Glance

  • The number of knitting leaders and cooperatives has grown since our founding because of the reliable pay, reliable work, and reliable life/work balance that the cooperatives offer. Many of the knitters come in by word of mouth, often from within the same families because they've heard about the opportunities.
  • Knitters have control over how much work they do—and when they do it. Most knitters have other responsibilities, most notably taking care of children. They knit part time and on their terms.
  • Knitters have control over where they work. Some of the knitters do their work from home. Others come into cooperative knitting spaces or workshops run by their knitting leaders. Some do a combination.
  • Many knitters have work year-round. We want the knitters knitting 12 months a year rather than for two big fashion seasons. This hasn't necessarily been an easy thing to accomplish in an industry that values speedy production. Our solution: We have more frequent collections with staggered deliveries.
  • Knitters are paid regularly and reliably. Workers in the cooperatives are regularly and reliably paid by their knitting leaders, which is a requirement of this shift to "formality." Plus, the knitters have input regarding what they get paid.
  • Communication doesn't simply flow in one direction. From start to finish, it's a collaborative process. The feedback we've received from knitting leaders and their knitters has helped us create better products.