The Vendeur Asks: Arela
All Images: Arela
Since its inception in 2006, Arela has proudly created the most sustainable cashmere it can. The company, based in Finland, is a very family affair. Founder Maija works with her daughters Anni – Head Designer and Viivi – Head of Communications. We spoke to Viivi to discuss transparency and why Longevity is so important to the brand.
Arela is a cashmere brand with responsibility and community at its core. Beginning with Founder Maija and her daughters who work with her. Together they continue to respect the traditions and processes of cashmere herding and obtaining the fibres, while creating timeless and exciting pieces. Their experience, relationships with the herders and manufacturers means that each piece is made consciously and to last. Joining the Arela collection is Arela Sunday. An inspiring collection of natural, undyed cashmere, the kindest cashmere available to buy. We spoke to Viivi Arela, Head of Communications at Arela to find out more about how the company stays transparent and why longevity is so important.
The Vendeur: What inspired your Mother to start the company back in 2006? And at that point, was sustainable and ethical production important to her?
Viivi Arela: My mother Maija got the idea for Arela in Paris when she saw cashmere knits in a new light for the first time. She then wanted to create a knitwear collection with modern, minimalist designs and interesting, contemporary colours. Back then there wasn’t much talk about sustainability in regards to fashion production. Maija’s idea from the start was to create sustainable, timeless pieces made of high quality materials that would stand the test of time.
TV: Cashmere has become very sought after in recent years, with cheap cashmere dominating a lot of people’s wardrobes. What issues have you faced when it comes to sourcing cashmere and what is Arela doing to support producers and herders?
VA: During our existence, there has been a constantly growing demand for cashmere. The prices have gone up and producers face demands to produce more and more which leads to lower quality cashmere. Not to mention erosion of the plains where the goats and herders live. There are lots of low quality cashmere and blends with synthetic fibres sold as cashmere on the market and we try our best to help customers understand the differences between our products and low-quality cashmere. In addition, we are more than willing to pay the proper price for the quality yarn we use. We have been working with the same supplier for 10 years and have formed a tight, honest relationship with them. Together we coach each other to develop our processes to an even more sustainable direction.
“More and more people are valuing issues of sustainability higher in their decision making process.” – Viivi Arela
TV: We love how timeless all of the pieces are, but you still produce seasonal collections. Do you pay much attention to trends?
VA: We do – when designing our seasonal collections our Head Designer, my sister Anni first gathers information on timely issues and trends. She then goes back to the basics: the essence of the material. She sketches, plans and then starts to simplify, simplify, simplify. Maija works in the International Color Committee Intercolor where together with a team of designers from around the world she makes trend colour forecasts each season. So the trends are always there, but they are filtered through our lens.
TV: You have recently included bottoms in the collection for the first time. Do you have plans to add more items to your current offering?
VA: We want to focus on our strongest skill – knitwear – but are widening our selection to menswear in the recent future due to popular demand.
TV: Your Arela Sunday Collection is created using natural, undyed cashmere. How do you achieve the beautiful neutral tones without dyeing?
VA: We can’t achieve deep black, but the natural colours are reached by separating the different colours of goat underhair and making
yarn from them accordingly. Even though we are known for our colours, it is lovely to be able to offer a dye-free alternative.
TV: ‘For Good’ is an initiative that you set up allowing you to offer after care services, recycling and reuse of old cashmere. How are you helping customers get the most from their cashmere?
VA: Almost every time, after customers use our care service, their knit looks and feels like new. We wash, de-pill and steam the knits – simple things one can also do at home. Our aim with the service is also to show and guide our customers how to take care of their knits at home. A good weekly/monthly care routine is the key for a long-lasting, beautiful knit.
TV: Recycling is another big part of the ‘For Good’ initiative. What do you do with old, used pieces of cashmere?
VA: In the core of our work is our appreciation and respect for the precious natural resources and skilled workers who manufacture the high-quality Arela garments. The percentage of pieces recycled through us is still quite small – it seems that many of our customers are not so willing to part from their Arela knits! Our care service makes sure the knits are appreciated and stay in use for a long time. We also encourage our customers to only buy pieces they love and need, and we do not urge unnecessary consumption with constant sales. We don’t really have unsold stock – we do our best to buy stock very carefully. We have two seasonal sales, and if there is any leftover stock, we will sell those pieces in sale.
“In the core of our work is our appreciation and respect for the precious natural resources and skilled workers who manufacture the high-quality garments.” – Viivi Arela
TV: Are there any more plans in the pipeline to push you further towards circularity?
VA: Yes, it is the part of our business we are very eager to develop further. We have aims to shift our work into the direction where bigger part of our business comes from circular economy. For example; scaling our care service and developing our recycling processes further. We really do believe that this is the way forward in our industry.
TV: Thanks to brands like Arela, do you think that people’s perceptions of sustainability and over consumption are changing?
VA: We dare not take the credit for it, but we do see there’s a change of tide happening. More and more people are valuing issues of sustainability higher in their decision making process. It’s not just price and trends that are regarded nowadays when making purchase decisions.
TV: What are the great things about being able to work with family?
VA: It is quite simple, really: the pleasures of working with people close to you sharing the same vision and goal.
Arela Autumn Cashmere
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