Checking in with Claudio Sullas, Head of Quality Control
The day I interviewed Claudio Sullas, Head of Quality Control for Emilime, he had spent all morning traveling around Lima, going from one artisan workshop to another. Peru’s capital city is so sprawled out and the workshops (or talleres, as they’re called in Spanish) in seemingly every direction possible, that he can only go to a few, sometimes one, a day.
Though a native of Arequipa, Peru’s second-most industrialized metropolis, the size and movement is nothing compared to Lima. Whereas Lima’s historical center has seen better days, Arequipa as a whole seems to balance the new with the old and its residents are infamously proud of their city. Nicknamed the “White City” for its baroque buildings made out of sillar (a white stone), there’s an undeniable romantic quality and southern (Peru) charm.
But Arequipa is also known for housing Peru’s second largest alpaca population; a claim made all the more impressive when it’s considered that Peru is said to contain 87% of the world’s alpaca population. Emilime works with two alpaca fleece providers, Inca Tops and Michell, both of whom have operations in Arequipa. (See what goes into sourcing alpaca fibers here.)
For three years Claudio has held the demanding (especially in August) position as Head of Quality Control, but by no means has his role with Emilime been limited to just that. His vast experience and expertise in all areas of textile have made him a valued team player who lends support throughout the knitting process: from development and production to managing team members.
Working directly with our artisan partners, both those who knit by hand as well as those who use manual knitting machines, Claudio has come to know them on both a professional and personal level.
“Everyday is different because each taller is a different world…different idiosyncrasies, different ways of thinking,” he describes, maintaining his signature hushed tone. “But in the end, we all have to come together for the final goal. And to do so it’s important how we treat the artisans.”
So beyond fair wages, what does it mean to treat artisans (or any work partner for that matter)?
“You have to know how to communicate with your team, no matter who they are. It’s important to have been trained on how to treat and speak with people so that you can work together effectively. This means courses and some sort of preparation, which unfortunately a lot of private companies don’t provide,” he notes, shaking his head in dismay. “At Emilime, each of our artisan groups has a leader. We offer our leaders trainings in order to become better at managing their team, and our Community Development Project is setup to bring in experts in areas such as leadership and psychology to speak with all the artisans…this type of support is what makes Emilime unique.”
Claudio is quite zen (just talking to him for twenty minutes surely lowered my blood pressure), but with his vast work experience, he’s likely seen it all. He began working as a mechanic in his hometown and found it second nature to work on some of the first knitting machines that came to Peru. Having studied not only quality control but also production and product development, he went on to work for Michell Group as well as a large company that exported “all types of handicrafts from Peru.” Claudio developed a true love for textiles and handicrafts over the years, having spent time traveling all over the Andean nation, from remote highlands to city provinces, where the knitting culture truly thrives.
Times are changing, however. As highly industrialized processes and machines seem to be the direction the workforce all over the world is going, does he see a future for handmade goods?
“Handmade textiles will never die. There is a desire for handmade items that started as a trend but has since developed into something society strongly values. And this type of esteem and value wasn’t there before,” he remarks, optimistically. “I’ve also taken courses on fair trade. Paying workers adequately and using products and techniques that won’t damage the environment — all of this is becoming important for the consumer.”
If you haven’t noticed, Claudio is a Jack of all trades, having studied various topics that have all proven useful for his line of work. And his studious prowess has yet to be tamed, as he is currently studying programming for semi-automatic electronic knitting machines on the weekends. His motivation? The artisans.
“That they do their work well and feel good working here [for Emilime]. Not to say that everything is rose-colored, or every day is easy and beautiful. There are difficult moments where production is behind, or communication fails…but these moments pass and we continue to work as normal.”
Currently, Claudio is keeping busy with the quality control of our FW 2017 shipments. The last day for boutiques to place their made-to-order requests is August 28th. For more information contact us at email@example.com