Hector Alvarez of Lausanne, Switzerland. Known as Tito to friends and family, Hector is the founder of woollen products fashion brand beyondBeanie, also simply known as bB.
In summer 2013, Tito Alvarez travelled from Switzerland to Bolivia to visit his friend Paty Lucero where he began a journey that would give a new twist to his life.
Whilst enjoying the local culture and breathtaking sceneries that Bolivia has to offer, Tito noticed many women artisans making and selling hand-made woollen products on the streets of La Paz. He also noticed the presence of street children making a living by selling sweets, doing street performances or asking tourists for money for food.
Impressed by the artisans’ creations and wanting to support their work, Tito brought some beanies back to Europe. Once winter set in, people often asked him where he got the cool and colourful beanies from. And thus the idea for beyondBeanie was born.
Tell us about your brand beyondBeanie
We sell clothing accessories such as beanies, scarves, gloves, bracelets and bags which are artisanally made by Bolivian women. What makes bB so unique is that each product is hand signed by the woman who made it, and clients can then go on our site and read a profile about the female artisans and even leave them a message through the website. In addition, every product sold helps a street child, for example: one hat = five meals, one bracelet = one dental care, etc.
Can you give us a sneak peek into what you’re working on for 2016?
Our team is currently working on adding a brand new product which has nothing to do with fashion! It’s something which we plan on releasing in the third quarter of the year. Something which we are sure that our community is going to like.
What is the key purpose you hope to achieve through beyondBeanie?
Bolivia, as beautiful as it is, home to the highest capital city in the world and home of the largest salt flat, is also one of the poorest countries in Latin America with as much as 50% of the population living in poverty. (source: http://www.unicef.org/bolivia/resources_2332.htm)
While I understand that reducing poverty is a very complex matter, in the developing world, poverty reduction generally starts with offering opportunities for women and providing a better future for children.
Through beyondBeanie, we want to do exactly that, to help create a better future for underprivileged women and children with the help of conscious-minded/socially responsible consumers.
What made you go down this path?
In life, I’ve been lucky enough to never have suffered from hunger, I’ve always had a roof over my head, clothing to wear, I’ve been very fortunate to be able to get an education, etc. Unfortunately, this is not always the case for everyone, particularly children in Bolovia.
After just a few minutes of having landed in La Paz from my trip from Switzerland, I could already feel and see that there is a great deal of poverty in Bolivia. Both Paty and I were at a point in our lives where we wanted to do something more meaningful than just have a job or business which would only help provide for ourselves, and that’s how the idea for beyondBeanie occured to us. It would not be until months later that we launched the project, but the the idea itself began to get forged during that trip.
Our personal motivation now, a year and ten months after we started this project is seeing the change that is being made in the lives of the women and children who we can support.
Main source of inspiration?
My main source of inspiration is seeing that what we are doing is actually helping to make a difference, day in and day out; and that consumesrs from all over the world have joined our crusade.
What actions do you take in your daily life to lead a more sustainable lifestyle?
Walking as much as I can to commute in my city, even over taking public transportation. Another activity is to re-use plastic bags when I go grocery shopping.
What are some of your favourite brands in the sustainability community?
Images Courtesy of beyondBeanie