As Pampa’s co-founder and Global Director, Vicky is passionate about sustainable practices and loves working closely with artisans to help empower remote communities and preserve traditional knowledge and craftsmanship. Everything she designs and photographs is influenced by her love of the natural world and her desire to communicate a sense of place.
We interviewed four super women in business to understand what drives them to do what they do and what lessons they learnt along the way.
Tell us how Pampa started?
I started Pampa with my partner Carl in 2013 when we launched our first project by partnering with small Artisan groups in Argentina. We spent our time travelling back and forth to source one-of-a-kind rugs that had been handwoven in their homes. Looking back it was a truly special time, stripped back, raw and authentic. It was a great experience to enter the world that would become Pampa.
Since those smaller times, our range has expanded to include woven throws, cushions, and accessories, all handmade, continuing to hold onto the core values, ensuring all of our homewares are ethical and fairly traded through our direct partnerships.
In the beginning, we learnt how natural dyes, patterns inspired by nature and the traditions of manual weaving were slowly fading away. Pampa was founded with the desire to protect this woven heritage for the next generation.
In 2015, Manuel Aguirre, my brother, joined the business, becoming the Manager of Production in Argentina. At the same time, the growth of Pampa allowed us to open our flagship store and design studio in Byron Bay, Australia.
Describe what Pampa is.
To begin with, Pampa is a living, breathing thing. Like the large, treeless plains for which it is named, Pampa is an expanse that exists outside of time – a vast and generous landscape that invites spontaneous discovery. Pampa celebrates tradition, though it is not nostalgic. It looks to guide ancient techniques and customs worth preserving safely into the future. Anthropological in nature, it values the study of humanity and asks itself, “Why do humans make art?”.
How has it grown as a brand?
I feel like we have evolved daily since the very beginning. It’s been slow and steady, due to the handmade process of our products, which we love and feel deeply proud of.
We have become a community that has continued to expand both in Australia and overseas, especially in the US. We have matured as a brand, working with all sizes of interior design firms and hospitality projects around the world.
We have really grown in many different ways, but to date, the important growth has been internal, amongst our weavers, artisans and our team; to me, this is the most empowering, inspiring and what truly makes me happy.
What has been an integral lesson in it all?
I’ve learnt that slow is good; and that ethical, handmade art is truly worth the wait.
You’re also a photographer. How does this intertwine with the business?
I’ve been a photographer since finishing university, I worked freelance in multiple lifestyle and travel publications in Buenos Aires, before moving to New York to continue my studies at ICP and work as a still life photographer at a video production company.
When I launched Pampa after moving to Australia, I realised I had a strong body of work from my time travelling my homeland, Argentina. I decided it was the perfect opportunity to launch my series of art. Pampa Prints is now one of the strongest parts of the business, selling unlimited and limited prints, from earthy landscapes to natural beauty, that continues to evolve with us as a brand.
How has being a woman influenced the business?
I’d like to say that being a woman I bring warmth to the business, and not just me as Co-Founder and Creative Director, but our internal team is mainly women, and our weavers are too.
I know the women of Pampa stand for something, they believe in what we do both ethically and creatively and that shines through, adding a genuine warmth that is real.
Tell us how production works and the communities you work with?
Since starting Pampa we have had a single purpose and mission – to support as many artisans as possible from Argentina and work directly with them, no middlemen, to ethically produce high quality and long-lasting homewares and textiles using noble and sustainable materials.
To work ethically means, to us, that the artisans are working in their own environments in rural Argentina and getting a fair payment, which is above the average wage received by people in their region who are undertaking similar work. We have cultivated a relationship over the years based on trust that we are proud of. By staying at home they are helping to preserve their culture, their own heritage, the art of craftsmanship and above all, their communities. In big cities where they tend to migrate, they cannot continue with this kind of work sustainably and it often leads to a loss of their skills, traditional knowledge and feelings of displacement.
What have been some of the biggest challenges?
Some of our biggest challenges at Pampa are also some of our most treasured parts; for instance, the 14-hour time difference between Australia and Argentina, and our work with remote artisans that generally don’t have phone reception or access to emails. I love working with my homeland, and as a company, we love that our artisans live life unplugged from technology, connected to the natural world and their art. After all, that is what Pampa is all about.
What has surprised you about running a business?
I would say the social impact we have on our artisan communities would be the first one.
When starting Pampa I would never have imagined that we would grow so much, and in turn that our artisans would grow with us. It has been quite the ride and it hasn’t been an easy one. We had to learn how to combine two worlds, mix art with deadlines, and learn to mould together as a team, but we have really created something special, something we are all really proud of.
What is the focus of Pampa this year?
Becoming a B Corp business, promoting social and environmental change through positive business practices.
Want to read about more rad women in business? Read interview with Mountain Culture founder HERE
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