Last updated: May 2016
Spotlight on Best Buy Label: Páramo
Tell us a bit about your business
Páramo is a small British outdoor clothing company, based in East Sussex, started by Nick Brown in the early 1990s to turn his ideas about superior outdoor kit into a real product and business.
Through launching Nikwax in the 1970s, Nick had developed innovative fabric and footwear aftercare. Nick has always been a big enthusiast for the natural world so didn't want to include anything in his company’s products that might result in a negative environmental effect. The Nikwax aftercare products were the first to be water-based and not use aerosols – high performance and low impact.
In the mid 80’s Nick began experimenting with a new fabric technology, inspired by mammal fur, to make high performance, long-lasting, maintainable outdoor clothing without the need for laminates, membranes and taped seams, giving superior outdoor performance and comfort without built-in obsolescence. The new fabrics were tested in the Páramo region of the Andes in South America, a vegetation zone above the treeline which is pretty relentlessly cold and wet – a perfect testing ground!
When Páramo become a reality, Nick was looking for manufacturing capacity and was put into contact with a nun running a very small sewing workshop in Bogotá, providing practical training for vulnerable Colombian women. He linked up with the workshop and the rest is history! That small workshop which was an offshoot of a charity, the Miquelina Foundation, has become a high quality garment factory employing 200 women, training 400 women a year, looking after their children and providing housing and practical support.
Why do you think you received our Best Buy Label?
We think it reflects our long term commitment to running a business that takes the environmental and social impacts as a fundamental part of the business development not just as an add on. Of course, performance and profitability is a key factor in order for us to survive in a competitive world, without them there can be no Páramo, but we try to build environmental considerations into the business model and not just tack them on as an afterthought. And the social projects aren’t a CSR campaign, it’s how we make most of our products.
Founder, Nick Brown
Our ‘low impact’ emphasis comes right from the top and permeates every level. Páramo, and sister company Nikwax, are still owned by their founder Nick Brown. Nick's lifelong concern for social development and environmental protection has driven early adoption of responsible practices, and has attracted many like-minded thinkers to work amongst us. Páramo is a company of people who want to make a difference as well as make a living, our policies and programmes reflect this – and we are delighted that this has been recognised with achieving the Best Buy Label.
What do you think is the most important aspect of Páramo?
The no compromise outdoor gear from Páramo® offers high performing waterproofs without users having to sacrifice environmental and ethical principles. So high performance and quality are crucial. Our garments are the choice of Mountain Rescue teams, the British Antarctic Survey and countless mountain guides, outdoor instructors and nature professionals. We regularly win awards and accolades from gear testers and magazine readers.
The fabric technology is the startpoint, with Nikwax fabric treatments applied to achieve great and renewable waterproof performance. The key is that the fabric is designed not to be a barrier but to move moisture, working in a way sympathetic to biology to keep the wearer drier and more comfortable in all conditions, however hard they are working and however much sweat they are generating.
The waterproof fabrics that we use don’t need glue bonding, or environmentally/ biologically persistent chemistry such as poly- and per-fluorinated compounds (hazardous and polluting PFCs). Our fabrics are thus recyclable, repairable and aren’t compromised by being punctured – you could stick pins all over a Páramo waterproof, take them out, and it will still keep the rain out! We have a repairs workshop on site in East Sussex too, as accidents can happen when you’re out on the hill.
The Páramo designs using these fabrics are incredibly innovative, functional and timeless – constructed with the real outdoor enthusiast and professional in mind, so they can get on with enjoying the outdoors without worrying about their gear.
If you had to sum up the ethos of Páramo in two sentences, what would it be?
The best technology can be the most environmentally friendly technology – there is no need to compromise on performance or safety or to sacrifice environmental and ethical principles.
The first part of safety in the mountains is to focus on comfort – extend your comfort zone with Páramo.
Have you ever had to make a business decision that challenged your ethical standpoint?
There are regularly challenges! As demand for our products has grown we have had to expand production. We now make some garments in standard – though still ethically responsible - factories, rather than in Miquelina’s social project factories.
There are certain classes of products (with lower market value, such as our lightweight travel shirts for example) that are not economically viable to make in the Miquelina Foundation, so those are the items that we are currently manufacturing elsewhere. However, 80% of our products are still manufactured in Miquelina and we ensure that they have a guaranteed monthly order to safeguard the employment there.
Where can consumers find your products?
Consumers can find and buy our products throughout the UK:
- Our website which can also help them locate a friendly convenient retailer;
- Páramo Brand Stores in London (Marylebone), the Lake District (Keswick) and our own home town of Wadhurst in East Sussex;
- Páramo Shop in Shops and Páramo Partner retailers around the country as well as selected multiple stores. Consult one of our expert retailers for helpful and friendly advice – we actively support our independent retailers – most have been selling Páramo for many years and choose to use it themselves on their adventures;
- Páramo Recycled on eBay will let you choose a reconditioned garment returned through the Páramo Recycling Scheme – they are primed and ready for new adventures at a generous saving.
Read more about Páramo on the Paramo website or ring 01892 786444 with any queries.
Ethical Consumer subscribers can enjoy a 10% discount on the Paramo online store. To find out more login to the Ethical Consumer site and visit the subscriber area.