CRAFTMANSHIP HANDED DOWN FROM GENERATIONS
Well-known for its rich cultural heritage and breathtaking landscapes, Nepal is one of the most captivating places on the planet. The country is famously home to the Himalayan mountain range which covers the majority of its land, creating a breathtaking yet truly rugged landscape.
Nepal’s diverse population is equally strikingly – belonging to 125 distinct ethnic groups and speaking 123 languages. Nepal’s cultural heritage reflects this diversity and resourcefulness, it is a stunning mix of influences from the nation’s long history as a crossroads between Northern India and the Tibetan Plateau.
The Nepalese people are experts at using the exquisite materials that flourish around them – like luxuriously soft cashmere and yak wool. We hope that by applying their unique skills with these special materials to products aimed at a global market, we can help preserve their unique craftsmanship and fuel the country’s economic development.
While many textile companies turn to more industrialized countries for production, we have chosen to manufacture the slow and more thoughtful way in Nepal. We firmly believe the craftsmanship and material richness of Nepal and the surrounding region is worth supporting and investing in.
By entering production in Nepal, we are not expecting our Nepalese partners to adopt methods of unsustainable mass production. Occasionally, this means production can be somewhat unconventional and complicated. But we deeply believe that the time intensive and handmade nature of Nepalese crafting results in the most beautiful products.
In Nepal, we manufacture a range of products – from highly artisanal handmade items to more everyday objects made on a larger scale. Our handmade products support Nepal’s beautiful cultural heritage and the region’s tradition of nomadic livestock herding. While our items made on a larger scale provide important investment and capability development for Nepal’s young textile industry. This strategy enables us to build a diversified and sustainable business in Nepal while we invest in the exploration and development of lesser known fibers in the region, like yak and Sartuul wool.
All it takes is one touch to understand why cashmere is a beloved luxury material across the world. Cashmere originates from the highlands of Northern India, Nepal, Tibet, and Mongolia. The material is deeply important to the local craft communities in this region, where the traditional way of raising cashmere goats still practiced.
We are aware of the difficulties connected to working with cashmere. Cashmere is a rare luxury material and we intentionally treat it as such. We commit to using cashmere very thoughtfully, only producing it in a limited number of pieces where its unparalleled softness can fully be appreciated. For us, this means producing a small line of cashmere products in Nepal where we can support the region’s traditional herders, Nepalese craftspeople, and the country’s budding textile industry.
For our handspun and handwoven cashmere products, we have found a very small community in Nepal from whom we are able to source cashmere responsibly while also supporting their traditional methods of craftsmanship. The handspinners buy cashmere from small nomadic goatherds who roam between the Himalayas and the Tibetan Plateau. Then, they make beautiful cashmere yarn entirely by hand – from sorting to carding, dying, and spinning. Local handweavers then use this yarn to create exquisite cashmere items on traditional handlooms.
To reduce the burden of our virgin cashmere use, our machine knit cashmere products are blended with a 40% mix of linen. Linen is a highly sustainable material as it can be grown in almost any climate, is naturally pest resistant, and requires very little water. Blending our machine knit cashmere with linen also increases the durability of the delicate cashmere fibers while maintaining its softness and natural beauty. The yarn for our machine knit cashmere products is sourced from a trusted supplier of high-grade cashmere from China.
The yak is an amazing creature living in the remote hills of Mongolia, Tibet, and Nepal. The fiber used in our yak products is made from Yak Khullu – the finest, softest fiber from the undercoat of the yak. When treated properly, yak wool can feel as soft as cashmere, yet as strong and warm as llama wool. Normally a light brown colour, we only use yak wool in its natural brown shade.
Aiayu’s yak is sourced from the “Green Gold” project, a Swiss development program which organizes cooperatives of nomadic herders in the Mongolian steppe. The project helps traditional herders earn a more stable living from artisanal fiber production of heritage Mongolian breeds – like yak and Sartuul sheep. The program has a deep commitment to practicing sustainable grazing management and is actively working to restore and protect Mongolia’s grasslands. Similar to Aiayu’s llamas, our yak roam freely in their indigenous habitats, grazing in a much gentler way than industrially farmed livestock.
It’s an incredible material that has taken us a long time to develop, but we are very proud of the final result.