doña Rosa María with a selection of her wares at the Plaza de Ponchos in Otavalo, Ecuador

Our Story

Los Andes Shop

How it all started

Benoit & Debbie Berho began importing handknit sweaters in 1988. We started with angora sweaters knit by Benoit’s mother and friends in Chile. Later we began importing the beautiful alpaca and woolen items created by the artisans of Otavalo, Ecuador.  Otavalo is a town high in the Andes, famous for its colorful “Plaza de ponchos.”

 

Long-term relationship with artisans

We are so grateful to have a long relationship with hard-working native artisans like doña Rosa (in photo of market) & her husband don José.  The Otavaleños proudly maintain their distinctive traditional dress, as pictured here.

From slavery to prosperity

Our handicrafts are not only beautiful and unusual, but they also tell a story of success for the people of Otavalo. (Debbie cannot resist explaining this because, after all, she has a degree in Latin American History. 🙂 )

The Spaniards forced many native Ecuadorians to work in “obrajes”, a colonial version of a textiles sweatshop. The fabric they produced was used by Spaniards all over their empire for hundreds of years. After Independence from Spain, the Ecuadorian people took advantage of their skills for their own benefit.  They now own all the means of production. That is why when you acquire an original craft, you are certain that you are ensuring the livelihood of the creators.

Success for women artisans

Our handicrafts are imported directly from the town of Otavalo. Your purchase assures that we continue doing business with the artisans without any middleman. Many of the artisans are single women or moms whose sewing or knitting at home allows them to support their families and watch over them at the same time. A different doña Rosa, picture below, told us how she began weaving when she was too small to move the loom shuttle with just her arms, so she would walk it back and forth.  Today she owns her own store and employs many women to sew at home, keeping a close eye on the quality of their work.

Elderly Otavalan craftswoman & Debbie, shop owner
Dona Rosa surrounded by her wares

 

Rustic and outdoor themes

Many of our alpaca-blend couch throws and blankets have traditional designs. They look great in Southwestern, Western, cowboy/girl, or boho decor schemes. For others, we collaborate with the makers to create patterns that appeal to our market in the PNW and beyond. People who love the outdoors, mountains, woods, and adventure like our blankets and couch throws featuring bears, horses, Bigfoot (Sasquatch), mountains and trees.

We are based in Newberg, Oregon and bring a variety of beautiful alpaca, alpaca-blend, woolen, and cotton textiles from Otavalo, Ecuador to the States.  We ship our blankets & couch throws anywhere in the U.S.  Shop Now!

You can find us at fairs and events throughout the Northwest. Check our market calendar to see when we are near you!