Here we produce hand spun and hand woven yak and cashmere products in local workshops in Katmandu, as well as machine knitted cashmere / linen knits in the Biratnagar region.
Where other international companies often turn to more developed and production skilled countries, at Aiayu we have chosen to manufacture our woven and knitted cashmere and yak products in Nepal. Rather than create a charity, we have developed local business relations based on mutual understanding, trust and responsibility. The result is a win / win business where both sides benefit.
Politics, poverty and possibilities. These are key factors which impact the opportunities Nepalese women do or don’t have. Add to that their cast, cultural attitudes, traditions and family values, and you have even more reasons why it’s a daily struggle for these women to make their own life choices. To choose the kind of education and profession they would like to pursue.
TRADITIONAL HANDCRAFTS AND MATERIALS
In Nepal, we see a unique opportunity to preserve their traditional handcrafts and use of materials. In doing so, we are supporting the development of the female workforce.
By helping to keep Nepal’s rare tradition for craftsmanship alive, this gives them a potential future we passionately believe they deserve to be acknowledged for. Our efforts contribute to their export, which Nepal desperately needs in order to fuel their development.
At Aiayu, our overall goal is to stimulate demand for Nepali-made products, while actively supporting a positive development of the country with a deep respect for diversity, sex, and culture.
Well known for its rich cultural heritage and breathtaking mountainous landscapes, for us Nepal is still one of the most captivating places on the planet. Located high in the Himalayas, it’s remarkable that they manage to retain their own distinctive culture, separate from their super power neighbours India and China.
Some of our favourite facts about Nepal: Cited as the oldest country in South Asia, they actually have five seasons – summer, monsoon, autumn, winter and spring. A diverse population with over 80 ethnic groups, there are more than 123 different languages spoken in Nepal.
On a personal note, we found the Nepalese to be some of the most genuine people we have ever met. They may not have much, but they will give everything they have to do their utmost in terms of hospitality. Even though many live a difficult life, facing economic challenges, poverty and the risk of earthquakes, they never complain. Instead they accept life as it is. They are passionate and work hard to get what they have and are proud of their achievements.
At Aiayu, we have the deepest respect and admiration for the Nepalese.
For our Aiayu products made in Nepal, we use the wool from Yak and the cashmere from goats. Both are natural sources of sustenance which the local communities have relied on for centuries, for milk, meet and fur.
The Yak is an amazing creature roaming the remote hills of the Himalayas in Nepal. Unbeknownst to the conventional textile industry, the fibres from the Yak fur, when treated properly, are made into wool that feels as soft as cashmere, and yet as strong and warm as llama wool.
Our Aiayu wool is made from the Yak Khulu, the finest, softest fibre from the Yak. Normally a light brown colour, we only use it in its natural form. All refinement of the wool, from sorting to spinning and weaving is all done by hand in Nepal. It takes a a skilled spinner 1 month to spin 2 kilos of Yak wool, enough for 5 Aiayu Lahan shawls.
The Aiayu cashmere comes from the goats of Inner Mongolia. It’s the softest wool of its kind and very delicate, as the fibers are shorter than other wools like llama or merino.
All our Aiayu cashmere is refined in Nepal, given their extensive expertise with cashmere. Our handspun cashmere products are all refined by hand – from sorting to spinning to weaving and dying. One goat yields only 200 – 300 grams of pure cashmere a year. Just enough for one medium weight sweater.
Our machine knitted cashmere products are blended with linen to enhance the durability, while keeping the softness and the natural beauty of the cashmere.
Nepal has a tradition for impeccably handcrafted products involving knowledge and skills that have been handed down from generation to generation. We see an incredible potential in these ancient techniques and indigenous materials. By applying them to modern products aimed at a global market, we are contributing to Nepal’s export. In doing so, we hope to have a positive impact on Nepal’s economic future.
But there’s a deeper issue at stake here.
Since the majority of artisans working in the textile industry worldwide are women, it makes sense for us to care about women. In Nepal, women are not always given the same opportunity to choose their education or profession as elsewhere around the globe. Family traditions, the caste system and poverty are some of the harsh realities that hinder them from earning a decent living. Sadly, poverty often makes the decision for them.
To communicate the importance of women’s rights worldwide, Aiayu joined The Confederation of Danish Industry (DI) and DANIDA in a photo exhibition called “Women Empower Business”. It premiered at the international Women Deliver Conference in May 2016 – the largest, global conference on sustainability since COP21.
The exhibition showcased how Aiayu and seven other selected Danish businesses support women’s rights in developing countries. It was an amazing experience attracting 5,500 delegates, government leaders, top UN executives, politicians, ministers, world-renown experts, businesses and members of the media from around the world.
HRH CROWN PRINCESS MARY OF DENMARK
At the opening event, Her Royal Highness Crown Princess Mary gave a speech emphasizing how the private sector is key to creating growth and equality in the world, highlighting women’s rights as a priority for businesses. Not just because it’s the right thing to do but because it benefits business, as well as the women who contribute to it.
We hope to be able to inspire businesses to create better conditions for women all over the world. Surveys show that there is a great deal to gain for women – and for the world at large. According to McKinsey & Co., equality for women in the labour force would boost the world’s total GDP by
26% by 2025. That’s serious food for thought.