Arms of Andes cofounders, siblings Meli and Rensso

OUR STORY IN SHORT 

ARMS OF ANDES

We are Arms of Andes: a family brand, built and run by my brother, Rensso, and me (Meli). Being two California-born millennials of Peruvian decent, we decided to bridge the gap between our ancestors’ heritage and the modern world, creating unique garments that reconnect people with nature. Sustainable outdoor clothes, made from the Inca’s most functional fibre: Alpaca Wool.

OUR STORY

My Story (Meli)

"Los Angeles locals, born to rural Peruvian parents, my siblings and I were infatuated with nature. Since we were kids, we spent our entire summers in our mother’s hometown near Cajamarca, in the highlands of northern Peru. We would test our parents' knowledge (and probably, patience) about our roots, listening to stories of our ancestors. The reality of our Peruvian cousins was tremendously different from the modern tumult of the city we knew from LA. The Andean people are so down to earth and community-oriented, maintaining simple, but very sustainable lifestyles: eating only local, fresh foods and making clothes for themselves, using wool, cotton, and leather. Living close to nature, often depending on it, they have learnt how to use its resources respectfully. We always relished the opportunity to learn everything we could about our heritage, fascinated in particular by The Inca: a civilisation that arose from the Peruvian mountains. “How did they keep warm?” we’d ask our aunts. Used to the Californian climate, neither of us could comprehend how indigenous people survived in such extreme altitudes and climates. 
Having travelled across the globe as backpackers and experienced different cultures since our early 20’s, both Rensso and I decided to work for our father’s company. Exporting superfoods from Peruvian farms to food manufacturers and distributors around the world was our first experience of trying to blend Peruvian culture with the way Western World conducts business. Often uneasy, but extremely rewarding, it gave us deep insight into the benefits and limitations of working in Peru.

Arms of Andes Cofounder Meli hiking in Tatra Mountains
Arms of Andes cofounder in black alpaca wool baselayer

My Brother, Rensso

We might have grown up, but the fascination with our Peruvian heritage and our love of nature remained. One day, Rensso, listened to a podcast about the benefits of Merino wool and it sparked the idea of using alpaca fibre for the outdoors. Although alpaca wool was known in fashion industry, it seemed that no-one else had fully realised the real benefits and importance of this “fibre of the Gods”, widely used by people from Peruvian highlands. Studying the beneficial properties of alpaca fleece and the story behind it, we researched, ran tests, learned from our many mistakes, and finally created the first Royal Alpaca Wool Mid Layer. That was the beginning of Arms of Andes: born to bridge the gap between the two cultures we grew up in, and integrate magical, functional Alpaca fibre into modern garments that today’s explorers can use for their adventures in the wild. Although making outdoor gear from alpaca wool is already unique, we also wanted to be different as a manufacturer and a brand. Our goal was to bring people back to nature and to ensure that, just like our ancestors, our company is fully sustainable and supportive of our civilisation. The story of The Andean people and their beloved alpacas deserves to be heard, and we feel it is our responsibility to do it, sharing the sustainable living mindset with today’s world. We look at our ancestors as role models and follow their methods: for example, they used natural dyes from local areas, so we decided to do the same. Every day we are doing our best to make AoA better and more innovative, maintaining Andean legacy and traditions at the same time." 

Our Papá

Our Father, Manuel, is the reason we could realise our dreams to create Arms of Andes as a family brand. Coming from a small town called Huancayo, in the central highlands of Peru, he grew up in a big family with five of his cousins and three aunts, who raised him like he was their own child. He didn't have much growing up and that pushed him to create a better life for him and his family. Papá studied Civil Engineering in Lima, where he met our Mamá. Together they decided to risk it and try their luck moving to the United States, hoping for better life opportunities. Dad’s hard work, persistence and constant drive towards self-improvement helped them to overcome the challenges of their first years as immigrants and soon he started his own production company in Los Angeles, CA. Years later, he created a family business exporting Peruvian super foods, around the world. He never forgot the humbleness his early years taught him, or where he came from. Dad was the one to advise us on what an honest, transparent company should be like: that a business does not only need to be profitable, but also ethical and moral. He inspired AoA to push the boundaries of the modern-day manufacturing processes and become more sustainable and transparent than any other brand has been before.

A father and a daughter wearing black Arms of Andes alpaca wool midlayers
Our mother Marcela hiking in Arms of Andes clothes

Our Mamá 

Our Mother, Marcela, was born in a very small town called Iglesia Pampa near Cajamarca in the northern Andes. She grew up in a loving family, living in a very traditional way, in an adobe (mud brick) house, on top of a hill overlooking a river. Mom would always describe her childhood lifestyle, just like the Incas once had. She rode horses, had her cuyes (guinea pigs), made her own toys from clay and knitted her clothes from wool, dyeing them with cochineal. She moved to Lima when she was 15 years old, and soon she met our dad. Both of them saw the United States as a land of opportunities and decided to move to Los Angeles when Mom was 23, even though she didn't know any English. It was only after having her first child, our oldest brother Alejandro, that she first started learning the new language . Then, in her mid 30s, she decided to go to school and get her degree in nursing. Eager to learn, she received the highest grades and a scholarship. Living far away from her homeland, our mother never forgot her heritage. Nostalgically remembering her early years, she made sure her kids knew their roots and where they came from. She instilled her love of nature, natural ways of living and respect of Peruvian traditions into us. She  inspires us to create new products with natural material from Peru.   

GO FURTHER IN NATURE WITH ARMS OF ANDES