Posted on 16 Comments

Beyond the Jacket

From January 2017, 80% of Páramo production carries the World Fair Trade Organization (WFTO) First-Buyer Label.

This year, we’re celebrating 25 years of ethical partnership with the social enterprise Miquelina, which empowers exploited women and girls affected by Colombia’s civil conflict to take their future into their own hands. With support from the welfare organisation Caritas Germany and the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development, Miquelina’s fair trade production standards have been verified by the WFTO, of which it is now a fully-fledged member. All Páramo products produced at Miquelina from January 2017 will carry the WFTO First-Buyer label. 


Casualties of conflict

According to the UN Refugee Agency, Colombia’s 50-year civil conflict has internally displaced over 7 million people. Over half of them are women and girls, particularly vulnerable to sexual violence and drug abuse. Many have families to support.

“In Colombia, you are forced into prostitution”, says 40-year old Amparo Chambo, who fled to the capital city after her parents were murdered in southern Cauca. “I was alone, I had no money – prostitution was the last resort”. As a young girl, she fell victim to violence, rape and unwanted pregnancies. 


However, for 20 years now, Amparo has been working at “Creaciones Miquelina”, a sewing factory in Bogotá. Miquelina was founded in 1977 by Esther Castaño, Mother Superior of the order “Las Religiosas Adoratrices”, with two secondhand sewing machines and the goal to empower exploited women like Amparo to take control of their lives. Today, the modern factory employs 200 women and trains 550 more each year.

“For the first time in their lives, these women are experiencing respect. Across several conversations we convey to them that they are valuable and capable of taking their future into their own hands: they can get vocational training, earn a living and be free”, says Sister Rosaura, the head of the order.


Aligning social and commercial objectives

During a visit to Colombia in 1992, Nick Brown, founder of Nikwax® waterproofing, met Madre Esther by what he describes as “divine accident”. He was looking for a manufacturer to realise his idea for a new kind of outdoor clothing. Together, they created the first Páramo jacket and the foundation for a strong partnership that successfully aligns long-term social and commercial objectives.

Nick Brown Rosaura PatinoAccording to Sister Rosaura, “Nick has been the best ally. In addition to his business vision, he has an extraordinary social sensitivity that led Miquelina to reach high levels of quality.”

With Páramo’s encouragement, Miquelina registered as a charitable organisation in 1997 and achieved the ISO 9001 quality certification in 2002. Today, the factory is responsible for well over 80% of our production. All factory profits are reinvested in equipment and in social projects. A housing co-operative in a district of Bogotá gives the women the opportunity to buy property at a fair price. The nuns have built a community centre, a virtual library, a kindergarten and a canteen for local schoolchildren. A recently launched satellite project in Pereira City, 200km west of Bogotá, is extending Miquelina’s valuable work in a new location.


Verified by the World Fair Trade Organization

wfto-first-buyer-logoWith support from the welfare organisation Caritas Germany and the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development, Miquelina became a WFTO guaranteed Fair Trade Organization in January 2017. All Páramo products produced at Miquelina will carry the WFTO First-Buyer label.

“I am delighted to welcome Páramo as the first company of the outdoor sector using the Fair Trade First-Buyer-Label on products supplied by Miquelina, which is a guaranteed Fair Trade producer organization in Colombia”, says Rudi Dalvai, President of the WFTO. “In the garment sector, too often there is flagrant violation of human and labour rights in producer countries, which often face significant challenges in terms of sustainable development. The long-lasting partnership between Miquelina and Páramo is an admirable example which shows that economic development and product quality can go hand in hand with human development and social justice”.

16 thoughts on “Beyond the Jacket

  1. Well done!
    I’ve solely used Paramo for 25 years and always use your recycle scheme. I hope your example will spread.
    Feedback from 25 years? Analogy material performance, functionality, design excellent. Weak link? Zips and Velcro. Every Montana velez or pasco I’ve owned has eventually needed replacement due to them.
    Still buying paramo though and always will.

  2. Congratulations to the Miquelina Foundation and Paramo for the WFTO accreditation.
    I first became a Paramo customer a number of years ago on the recommendation of Andy Rouse, 1. because its was excellent outdoor kit, recommended to take the hard knocks and keep on working and 2.The fact that most of the production was carried out at an organisation set up to help vulnerable women have a better life. What a wonderful job everyone has done to develop this to the point it’s at today.

  3. I have worn paramo since the mid 90’s. I am very pleased to read the success story of Miquelina. Very heartwarming to read that buying and using paramo not only keeps me warm and dry in the UK mountains, but helps so many elsewhere.
    Dave Blanden Cockermouth MRT

  4. So pleasing to read that Paramo is so involved in such a worthy organization, long may it continue. So many businesses are interested solely in profits. Well done Paramo!
    Have been using Paramo clothing for a lont ime now and always found it top quality.
    Thank you Jeff Milner

  5. Well done Paramo. Every manufacturer should have your ethical approach.

  6. A wonderful uplifting story which is a vision of a very different world to that of Trump and Farage.

    I’m a big fan of Paramo and their jackets work brilliantly in the Scottish highlands and my allotment! Its amazing to see the story behind the jackets.

    Long may the Foundation and Paramo prosper.

  7. More fantastic news which proves that companies can be successful and ethical. I love the story of the Miquelina Foundation and the fact that I contribute to it when I buy my latest bit of Paramo clothing and I am now into double figures of items of Paramo clothing. Even if there were no other good reasons to buy Paramo clothing, the Miquelina Foundation would be a compelling reason to buy Paramo. Add on environmental issues like PFCs and there is only one company to trust and buy from.

  8. Well done Paramo – excellent work ethics and I’m proud to wear my garments knowing that you help these people of all ages.

    Keep up the great work.

  9. A really good story.

  10. It is wonderful to hear of two companies, Nikwax and Paramo creating ethical businesses.

  11. I have been buying Paramo gear for over 10 years, simply because they are the best you can get–and getting better! So comfortable and so efficient. Nothing compares. To know my purchases are helping these poor people of Columbia makes them even more enjoyable to wear–and even enjoyable to pay for!

  12. I am proud to wear paramo clothing, because of what it represents and because on this shameful world l can make a real choice about what l buy and where it comes from and who profits from it.
    I am a drug and alcohol counsellor in the UK. I know what a good life is.but l cannot be blind to people who have no choice.
    I also really like long distance walks in the northern hemisphere in winter when l can be absolutely certain of my clothing functioning perfectly(all this with no rustle).
    Thank You.

  13. I’m about to go on a bird watching/photography weekend – it will be cold and windy and there’ll be a lot of standing around. I have the halcon jacket. Also a cambia tshirt and a classic grid layer (long sleeves). Can I wear both these shirts layered under the jacket? Will I be warm enough with just the long sleeved shirt?
    Any advice gratefully received.

    Best wishes

  14. I’m looking for your special offer to Nature’s home readers of tech wash and tx. direct, £16 for £9

  15. I got my first Paramo jacket before I knew much about the company. It has been excellent for a north Kent birdwatcher! We have very chilly winds from the north sea around here! Then I had a trip to amazing Colombia in 2016 and now I know more about their story I will be aiming to buy mainly Pàramo stuff from now.
    Keep up the good work. Buena suerte Colombia!

  16. I’ve been wearing Paramo clothing since May 2010 and it has exceeded even my high expectations, I recommend to everyone I meet. I would never consider another brand. When it comes to outdoor clothing Paramo clothing is the best you can get.

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