The “End of the World,” as Patagonia was nicknamed long ago, is a hard region to make a living in. Chile has one of the lowest rates of female employment in South America, but the women of Tierra del Fuego, where Karukinka’s factory is located, are the lifeblood of this company.
17 local workers between the ages of 20 and 70 spin, weave, sew, and create Karukinka Outdoor products in the city of Porvenir, which has a population of about 4,000 people and is often overlooked by tourists to the region. 90% of our employees in our workshop are women.
One of Karukinka’s social priorities is to empower people and communities as they rescue traditional crafts. Women in Patagonia have always had to shoulder the burden of growing and managing their family’s food, taking care of the livestock, tending the vegetable garden and fruit trees, chopping wood, running rural tourism activities, and making crafts, in addition to their childcare and household tasks. More often than not, Patagonian women led a harsh life, giving birth without hospitals and managing all these tasks on their own while their husbands travel to work in the livestock or timber industries.
A lot of people associate Patagonia with heart-pounding vistas and epic adventure, which it has in droves, but we believe the people of this region are just as outstanding as the landscape. Our social impact is an important part of our company’s ethics. At Karukinka, we seek to honor and reclaim the traditions of the ancestral people of this land. Elevating the skills that are traditionally the domain of women has become an important way for our company to do this.
We work hand in hand with the ONA Foundation to improve the quality of life for the indigenous people of Tierra del Fuego. By providing better working conditions, more education, training, and infrastructure, our partnership with ONA helps to develop and strengthen the people and community of this region. We teach women the skills they need to create meaningful careers, elevating tasks traditionally seen as less important because they were “women’s work,” such as spinning yarn, weaving, and sewing. In this way, we are empowering women to become champions of sustainability, slow fashion, and the cultural heritage of the region, promoting progress while honoring tradition.
Each Karukinka product is fashioned by hand, not machines, and therein lies its true value.
"Each weaver has its history that is embodied in each garment," says Felipe Jadue, Karukinka’s CEO and founder.
Without the predominant women-led production team, Karukinka wouldn’t be what it is today. Our choice to create a slow fashion brand that hand makes clothing in Tierra del Fuego creates jobs for the women of this region. Their wages go back into the local economy, stimulating the region and bringing economic prosperity and modernity to Patagonia while honoring tradition.