Páramo, the British brand of waterproof clothing, said it became in January the first company in the outdoor sector that will be able to use the Fair Trade first-buyer label of the World Fair Trade Organization (WFTO) for more than 80 percent of its products. They are sourced from Creaciones Miquelina, a sewing factory in Bogotá, the capital of Colombia, that employs exploited women, saving them from prostitution.
Miquelina was founded by a nun in 1977, the same year in which Nick Brown founded Nikwax, a brand that originally stood for Waterproofing Wax for Leather, in his apartment in North London, targeting leather boots for climbing. Today, Miquelina employs 200 women and trains 550 more each year. Brown began to work with it 25 years ago when he founded Páramo to make ethically produced outerwear using his ecological waterproofing system.
Páramo is the name of a rainy and cold area in the Colombian Andes where he tested the new “directional” Nikwax Analogy fabrics that he had developed, after he was unable to find fabric technologies that worked well enough for moisture management in humid weather conditions.
In 2002, ten years after it started working for Páramo, the Bogotá factory obtained ISO 9001 certification for the quality of its production. Miquelina, which was formally incorporated as a charitable foundation in 1997, reinvests all its profits on modern equipment and social projects. The nuns who run it have set up a housing cooperative to allow its workers to buy property at fair prices. They have built a community center, a virtual library, a kindergarten and a canteen for schoolchildren. They recently launched a similar project in Pereira City, 200 km west of Bogotá.
Páramo clothing has been used for polar expeditions, and it has been adopted by the British Mountain Rescue Teams and the British Antarctic Survey. It was named “Top Equipment Brand” in the 2016 Readers' Travel Awards of Wanderlust, the British travel publication.
For its part, Nikwax prides itself on supplying waterproof fabrics that don't rely on PFCs or membranes to be waterproof and breathable, thanks to its two-layer system. All the garments made by Páramo have been certified as being PFC-free since last April. In January 2016, Páramo was the first outdoor label to sign up to the Greenpeace Detox commitment.
Páramo generates annual sales of around €7.5 million, mostly in the U.K. Adding Nikwax, Nick Brown has a profitable business with an annual turnover of around €25 million. Since its inception 40 years ago, Brown, who is also vice president of the European Outdoor Conservation Association (Eoca), has donated some €200,000 to offset the CO² emissions of Nikwax and Páramo. The donations have gone to Eoca and the World Land Trust for reforestation and other conservation projects.