Ajaie Alaie is a Brooklyn-based womenswear label creating handmade garments that are inspired by movement, comfort, and the art of loving oneself. Our name and philosophy come from ajai alai, a Sanskrit mantra for standing in your power which translates to invincible, indestructible. The power of self-affirmation and intentionality guide everything we do, from the way we make our clothes to the way they are worn.
“be the energy you wish to see in the world.”
Ajaie Alaie uses only sustainable, biodegradable textiles, and we work exclusively with small manufacturers who provide fair pay, opportunities for growth, and unique artisan craftsmanship. We offer made-to-order collections that are size-inclusive, accessibly priced, and intentionally low-waste. From the beginning, we always wanted to make women feel confident and beautiful—and we recognize that in order to do that, we need to respect Mother Earth as well as the people whose hands make our clothing. Ajaie Alaie is inspired and driven by the process of designing and making. Spinning, weaving, knitting, and natural dyeing—these are the hand crafts that form the heart and soul of our designs. Each piece is ethically manufactured in small units with our trusted partners in Peru and India. Together, we are constantly working to embrace sustainability within our processes to reduce waste, reuse resources, and actively work towards a more accountable fashion supply chain. Our garments carry great intentionality and serve as a mantra, a reminder to “be the energy you wish to see in the world.” Much like the people who wear our garments, Ajaie Alaie is not about perfection, but about the grace and flow in constant learning, expansion, and improvement.
Daniella Samper is the founder and Creative Director of Ajaie Alaie. She was born in New York and raised between the U.S. and Colombia. A graduate from FIT, her admiration for a woman’s presence inspired her to create her womenswear label in 2015. Her designs and ethos are both inspired by the sophistication of metropolitan cities like NYC and the joie de vivre she feels within her Latin roots.
“When I started Ajaie Alaie, sustainability was key but it was not the core, as back then I didn’t know as much as I do now. Now I know more, and I feel that as a designer it is my responsibility to design sustainably, ethically, and practically. I have always known that I wanted to take the long, slow, and less travelled route to truly connect with the process that is growing and creating new collections.
As a designer, what warms my heart and fulfills my sense of purpose is the process of designing and making. The climate crisis and social justice crises we face today serve to question my principles and test my passion. I am grateful for the limitations I have to be mindful of when designing sustainable fashion because they make my work better and force me to think outside the box. The choices we make as designers matter, because it is true that the world moves around art, and fashion is a space for us to feel empowered and seen.
For me, the solution lies in reshaping our relationships—with the supply chain, our closets, and ourselves. It brings me so much joy to personally know the women who hand knit our sweaters, and to know that our yarns have been naturally dyed with non-toxic materials. I would not be on this journey if not for the collaborators who work with me to make Ajaie Alaie happen, and that is why my goal is to always keep this company small and intimate. I want to always be connected to the makers as well as the customers as we grow, because that is where I find the most joy and gratitude in this process. I design Ajaie Alaie with such intention, and my promise to you is to always be transparent as we continue down the road to responsible, environmentally friendly production.”
Small scale and meaningful.
Ajaie Alaie has always prioritized working with small scale, responsible producers. In 2019, we took this philosophy one step further by taking a holistic look at every aspect of our supply chain with the mission to make Ajaie Alaie 99% sustainable. We now use 100% natural fibers and no synthetic materials, and all of our pieces are produced by hand in small, responsibly run facilities in Peru and India. We seek to build lasting, meaningful relationships with our partners and always look for third-party certifications like GOTS Organic and Fair Trade to help verify sustainable and ethical practices. This means that we get to support communities of thriving artisans and farmers while ensuring that our garments do not degrade the environment.
All natural fibers like Peruvian alpaca, cotton, silk, and linen lend themselves to garments that are breathable, comfortable, and full of movement. Our fabrics are gentle on your body as well as the planet, and while they are designed to last a lifetime, they are biodegradable and will return to the Earth once you’ve finally finished wearing them.
We get all of our alpaca and organic Pima Cotton yarns from Inca Tops, an organization that sells and supports sustainable fiber production in Peru. Peruvian alpaca is a special fiber that is soft, hypoallergenic, and wonderful for balancing body temperature. It is sourced from alpacas that are raised traditionally by Peruvian farmers and is processed completely by hand. Organic Pima Cotton from Inca Tops is also known for its super-soft and breathable qualities. It is farmed and processed in Peru and is both GOTS and OEKO-TEX certified for sustainability. If you would like to learn more about our pure Peruvian yarns, please visit Inca Tops and Pacomarca.
Prior to 2019, we imported beautiful woven textiles from Japan to our factories in India. While we loved those materials, we wanted to find a way to source fabrics that did not create such a high carbon footprint. So in 2019 we started to source all of our wovens from India, the same country where they would be cut and sewn. Switching to Indian textiles is one of the best holistic decisions we’ve made at Ajaie Alaie—not only did this cut down on our carbon footprint, it also reduced manufacturing costs, deepened our relationships with our Indian manufacturers, and allowed us to find some truly special eco-friendly fabrics.
Ecodenim is a high-quality, beautiful material that requires very little electricity to create. It also contributes to the preservation of an ancient cultural craft, handloom weaving. This technique goes back through generations of Indian craftsmen and is an industry that economically empowers and supports many rural villages in India. Our Ecodenim fabric is handwoven from 100% cotton and dyed with 100% natural, eco-friendly dyes. 100% raw silk fabrics are also made in India with handloom weaving. Because it is not processed like other silks, this fabric is not shiny. Instead, it has a beautiful matte, slubby texture that is durable, comfortable, and graceful. 100% linen fabrics are woven in India from fibers grown in Belgium & France. Linen is an amazing plant-based material that is breathable, lightweight, and durable.
Our linen/cotton blend is made from 100% natural, plant-based fibers. It is sourced from Cortexil.
Our modal/cotton blend is a soft and sleek texture that drapes and washes beautifully. Modal is a cellulose material made from wood that combines the environmental benefits of natural fibers with the draping and ease of human-made materials. We source this blend from Lenzing, a European company that is focused on reclaiming waste and building sustainable solutions for the textile industry.
Women and Family run.
We create handcrafted, ethical fashion by partnering with like-minded small businesses in Peru and India. We always look for production practices that are energy-efficient and never harmful to our workers.
Our partners are most often women, families, and young Millennials like us. After years of dealing with conventional companies who cut corners and only saw dollar signs in our partnership, we have finally started to see more young, creative, and mission-driven operations pop up throughout the supply chain. Now, we are grateful to work with compassionate, responsible producers who are full of creative energy. Although it can be more expensive and time-consuming, it is fulfilling for us as a small business to support other small businesses and empower a community of makers.
We create all of our knitwear and natural dyes in Lima, Cusco, and Arequipa, Peru. We also work with artisans in Puno, Peru to create some of our hand knitted pieces.
Revolution Knits is a small, woman-run workshop in Lima, Peru where some of our more artistic knit and crocheted pieces are created by hand. Last year they secured the BCPJ Peruvian Fair Trade Certification, which ensures that they operate with transparency and respect for the environment, protect workers rights, and provide opportunities for community growth. We love working with Revolution Knits because they are enthusiastic about their efforts for sustainability and community support and because they are creative collaborators who we work closely with to make design decisions.
Innovative Knitwear is another one of our partners in Lima, Peru. They are women-run and provide expertise for some of our artistic hand-loomed and crocheted designs. Their vast expertise with the Peruvian handwoven techniques and their technical savoir faire helps us elevate our designs to produce the high quality garments that we dream up every season.
Textil Peruvian is our third knitting partner based in Lima, Peru. This small workshop is family-owned and focuses on our Elevated Basics Collection. These pieces are created on electronic knitting machines that create minimal fiber waste. Alfredo and Mirella, both business partners, have supported us since the beginning with our ideas, initiatives, and limitations, to help us work towards becoming zero-waste and reimagine new ways of producing eco-conscious garments. Although they create our basics the process is everything but basic. Throughout our visits we have learned the lengthy process of making our pieces and the work and effort that goes into each and every one is truly remarkable. We value their support with our small brand with big ideas.
CMA is an Indigenous-run community organization based in Puno, Peru. There is a community of women living here who have traditionally learned the craft of hand knitting from 8 years old. The founder of CMA is dedicated to helping this community self-sustain their livelihoods through their hand crafts. By working with CMA, Indigenous artisans learn how to expand their market beyond local tourism, create size grades, read tech packs, set up email systems, submit invoices, and run their own small businesses. By partnering with CMA, we get to support the practical and sustainable growth of a small community while creating unique, high-quality designs with their input.
In 2019, we visited them during our production, and it was a visit to remember. You can view some of our memories with them here in our blog.
Knit Creators is an organic natural dye workshop in Arequipa, Peru. We work with them to create beautiful rich colors on our alpaca and cotton yarns before they are knitted or woven into a garment. Knit Creators formulate their organic dyes out of completely natural materials, but they do include some non-toxic organic chemicals to enhance the colors. To learn more you may visit their website- www.knitcreators.com
Pichinku Fibers is a cooperatively owned natural dye studio in Cusco, Peru that is ¾ run by Quechua women who grew up practicing their traditional crafts. This small team works with 100% natural dyes that they source from the mountains surrounding Cusco. Pichinku uses culturally-important dye techniques to garment dye part of our Elevated Basics Collection knits by hand. To learn more you can visit their website at - www.pichinkufibers.com
We create most of our woven styles with small factories in India who source eco-friendly fabrics for our designs.
Friends Factory is our main manufacturer for wovens in New Delhi, India. We met the owner of Friends at FIT in New York before they started the factory in 2015. From the beginning, the vision for this factory was to pay and treat employees fairly while creating opportunities for growth. We know Friends follows through on these promises because we’ve seen employees who started out as sewers get trained for and promoted to higher-level positions. The factory now employs and trains a mix of skilled workers (both men and women), sources eco-friendly fabrics, provides a safe, plant-filled, and serene space for workers as well as visiting designers, partners exclusively with independently-owned brands like Ajaie Alaie, and has goals for adding solar panels to the factory in the next few years.
In addition to focusing on sustainable materials and ethical production practices, we believe that eliminating waste throughout our processes is important for reducing our footprint and preserving the planet.
Untitled Co. in Delhi, India is a small factory run by two young people. This is where we take our most technical and intricate designs. The team at Untitled Co has expertise in creating beautiful hand work like embroidery and quilting.
We never mass produce and always manufacture our collections in limited runs. This helps us keep our inventory minimal and prevents us from ending up with tons of unsold stock at the end of the season. It also means that you get to take home a garment that is unique
In 2019 we redesigned our supply chain to make it as cost-efficient and environmentally friendly as possible, offering made-to-order collections as one way of doing that. Made-to-order launches allow us to produce only what is sold, so we cut down on our waste almost by half. Only once you place your order does the yarn get dyed and the fabric cut, making every step from growing the fiber to shipping your order a process that is appreciated and never wasted.
Made-to-order allows us to offer a wider size range and move towards being more size inclusive. It also helps us keep our prices accessible, because we can price these pieces below what we would have to if we were selling them through traditional retail. We want our styles to be accessible for every woman’s budget and body while we continue to reduce our waste.
For more details, read our blog post about Made-to-order and how it works!
About half of a garment’s impact on the planet occurs once it's already in your closet. When designing our pieces we always ask ourselves these key questions; Is this piece timeless or seasonless? Can it withstand being worn over and over again? Is it easy to clean and repair? What happens to it at the end of its life?
In general, we encourage you not to wash your clothing after just one or two wears, but to wait until items are truly dirty before putting them in the laundry. Natural fibers like wool, silk, linen, and cotton are well-suited to being worn multiple times without getting dirty. Alpaca in particular is a naturally antibacterial, antimicrobial, stain-resistant fiber that rarely needs more than spot-cleaning.
We also encourage our customers to practice eco-friendly washing methods like spot cleaning, steaming, and skipping the dryer. Since dry-cleaning has such harmful environmental impacts, we are always mindful of choosing fabrics that do not require dry-cleaning, but can be washed by hand instead. For more on how to wash our garments effectively and sustainably, see our blog post on Post-Purchase Care.
If your garment loses a button, gets a snag, or becomes otherwise damaged—don’t throw it away, mend it! There are tons of DIY mending tutorials on the internet, and we are more than happy to offer some advice if you shoot us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
If the day comes when you are ready to let go of your garment, we recommend giving it a second life by swapping with a friend or handing it down as a gift. If it’s truly beyond repair, you can put it in your compost pile or bury it in your backyard, so it can biodegrade and return to the Earth.
Odds + Ends - When it comes to reducing waste, every little bit counts. We have worked to eliminate as much of the plastic in our supply chain as possible, no matter how small. In 2017, we eliminated poly bags in our shipping by replacing them with reusable mesh string bags that can be repurposed as grocery or laundry bags. We have also eliminated hang tags, receipts, and other small paper products that are usually thrown away.
“As we have grown and evolved over the years we’ve come to realize that the future of fashion is both sustainable and ethical. We knew that it would be difficult to reshape the brand, but we were ready to observe, listen, and analyze the best ways to make this effort a win-win-win, for our partners, our customers, and ourselves. The more that I have learned on this journey the more I have realized that even though dyes, fabrics, and hang tags are small steps, they are the little drops that come together to make a big ocean.” - Daniella Samper, founder & Creative Director of Ajaie Alaie