In 1986, Nick Brown tested his first garment and fabric combinations to their limits – staying warm, dry, and comfortable. The unique fabric system – Nikwax Analogy® – used in PÁRAMO garments provides breathable and directional waterproof performance without the need for laminates, membranes or taped seams.
He was so convinced by the performance, he knew a manufacturer for these garments had to be found. During a visit to Colombia in 1992, Nick came across Creaciones Miquelina, a small factory set up by Sister Esther Castaño Meija, the Mother Superior of Las Adoratrices in Colombia.
Her religious order provides practical help to women trapped in prostitution and exploitative situations, often as a result of civil war and the Colombian drugs trade. From their meeting, a partnership between a social endeavour and a commercial entity was born.
The expert craftsmanship of the women at Miquelina makes garments renowned for long-term performance, durability and longevity. These garments are easily renewed with Nikwax aftercare products, which means there are numerous Páramo jackets being used daily, still performing over twenty years later.
The demand for this proven performance has enabled over 10,000 women to come through the programme at Miquelina, each growing in confidence and gaining a skillset, something all Páramo Partners are deeply proud of.
There are currently 150 women working in the Miquelina factory and a further 50 working for Páramo in the UK. Madre Esther is now 93, Nick is 67, and while looking for a way to protect and build on his founding purpose and values, he came across the concept of an Employee Ownership Trust (EOT).
By setting up an EOT, Nick could effectively pass ownership to the employees, ensuring the principles that have driven the business would be maintained. On the 1 February 2022, Páramo and Miquelina became an EOT.
Since Miquelina was set up for the benefit of its employees in the first place, it was logical that Miquelina and Páramo should combine. There are significant benefits for Miquelina – in terms of access to capital and business expertise, and practical benefits to Páramo in securing its production.
For Viviana Montenegro, a flat seam machine operator, this is an important moment. She has this to say about here experience at Miquelina, “It all started nine years ago when I was walking by and saw the sign for Creaciones Miquelina. I stopped and made a decision then and there to make a better life for me and my two daughters.
“As a child, I hadn’t even finished primary school and so taking instruction and advice from the nuns as an adult was quite difficult at first, but I was determined to learn and progress. I started in the training centre where I met many other women who had stories similar to mine, and together we started to rebuild our lives. We became a family and still today we look out for each other.
“Being at Miquelina has changed my life, I am now able to confidently communicate with my family and colleagues, as they see me as a dignified woman with a decent job and my girls have their mother back full time. Being part of the Páramo family means that my life will improve; I am able to study further and progress from being a machinist. I look forward to paying off my house as well as saving for my daughters’ education, but above all, continue helping the many women who really need it.”
The women at Miquelina will tell you that their jackets are made with love. That may sound sentimental, but this work has transformed their lives. Brown says, “One thing that drives me to return to Bogotá and Miquelina time and again, is the extraordinary spirit of the ladies who make Páramo clothing, and their determination to overcome the history that led them to Miquelina.
“A word that is used often in Miquelina is ‘superar’ – it means to overcome and reach for new heights. But none of this could have happened without the dedication of the sisters who set up this project, and who really understand the meaning of love, and how to give selflessly.”
Main pic – (L-R) Seamstresses Alicia Gómez, Marlen Espitia, Amparo Chambo and Gloria Córdoba