We often get asked: how did Adriana Cachay and Laerke Skyum meet? How did two strangers turned best friends start their journey of sustainable fashion and creating AYNI?
It all started in 2003, when Laerke decided to visit Peru and get to know the country she had heard so much about from a friend. One of Laerke’s Danish friends was dating Adriana’s sister so needless to say, but they were just meant to cross paths.
When Laerke arrived in Peru from Denmark, Adriana picked her up from the airport in Lima. Laerke was very thankful that someone she had never met before would go through the ordeal of Lima traffic (believe us, there is nothing like being stuck in Lima traffic!!) to welcome her.
It is important to mention that back in 2003, Peru had just come out of political instability and wasn’t yet the popular holiday destination it is today. Machu Picchu wasn’t yet one of the 7 New Wonders of the World and Lima, not the culinary mecca it is today.
From their very first meeting at Lima airport, the spark was instant and their special connection undeniable. During her time in Peru, Laerke got to know Adriana’s family and Adriana being the warm and friendly person she is, made Laerke feel right at home. Laerke and Adriana became fast friends and really enjoyed spending time together, talking about their different cultures and common interests.
During one of their many conversations, they started to speak about their passions and Laerke decided to show Adriana a top she had made herself. Laerke had long had a passion for design and making clothes herself but wasn’t sure her hobby could turn into something more. When Adriana saw the piece, she immediately recognized Laerke’s talent and that this was an opportunity they had to seize.
Although both had different goals at the time, they loved fashion and shared the same values and ideas about how fashion should be produced. When talking about the business opportunity that had presented itself, they agreed that they had to take advantage of what Peru offered them, in the most natural and sustainable way possible.
Laerke was fascinated by the people and colors of Peru. Adriana adored her home country and wanted to help it develop further. Having both worked for charities and NGO’s prior, they agreed that they wanted to ‘do good through good’.
After numerous trips between Peru and Denmark as well as fashion capitals Paris and New York, brainstorming sessions and country-wide research (all according to their motto ‘if you do something, do it right or not at all’), their business plan was ready.
In 2006, AYNI launched its first collection but faced a lot of challenges. The fashion industry was and still is very competitive, especially for exportation. Additionally, back then, sustainability was not ‘in trend’ yet, so besides creating AYNI’s story, they also had to educate clients and buyers on sustainability and why it was worth investing in.
Making AYNI a brand with a circular business model was a risky move and very difficult over the years, but by trusting their instincts and originality, they became successful businesswomen who are managing to be both profitable and socially responsible with their work. Both founders agree that behind their success is a lot of personal compromises, hard work and daily perseverance.
Some might say that entrepreneurship is all about luck and in a way, they are right; the harder you work, the luckier you get.