Over the last decade scarves have become a huge fashion statement. We used to think of scarves as a staple only for our winter wardrobe, but that is no longer the case. Personally I love them—any kind of scarf for me will do; wool, silk, chiffon, cotton—you name it, I’ll wear it. In today’s fashion, scarves are accessories. They’re worn to make a statement. Take a look at YouTube and you’ll see videos showing 14 different ways to wear a scarf. They’re worn as belts, used to dress up or enhance outfits, and even to wrap babies in. While they are still being used to keep us warm, there are also other great reasons to buy them.
During my research for Gifts of Giving I met up with Dechen Yeshi, CEO of Norlha Textiles—a leading enterprise in Tibet and one of the few local brands in the world to combine cultural and environmental sustainability with the aspirations of discerning customers.
We talked about everything from her favorite products for the holidays to the funniest experience she had while building her business. Here are some of the highlights from our conversation:
What was the intention with the creation of Norlha?
For my mother, Kim Yeshi, yak wool was not only an opportunity to create a beautiful textile, but also a gateway for the Tibetan nomads into the modern world. Today, Norlha has created a valuable source of livelihood to the local nomads through its atelier and, given the market, a product that is timeless. It is therefore Norlha’s intention to not only provide the world market with a unique and valuable product, but also to give artisans a new and sustainable way of life.
How long have you been working on this?
Our research began in 2005, when I traveled with my younger brother in search of yak wool. Two years later in 2007, we established the atelier and employed our first 30 local nomads. Today, we have 125 employees and it has been 10 years since I first set out with my brother.
What is it like to live in such a remote part of the world?
The air is refreshing and the views breathtaking. I feel like I occupy a small corner of the world that still remains unique in a fast globalizing world.
What was the funniest experience you had while building your company?
We were the first ones to install plumbing in the village. We built toilets with running water and sinks for washing hands. Many of the women had never turned on a faucet in their lives. Once I was crossing the yard when a group of women started calling out to me in a panic. I went over to investigate and they pointed at the sink, with water gushing out. They didn’t know how to turn it off and kept tapping at the knob. They looked bewildered. I reached over and twisted the knob and the water stopped. They fell over laughing.
What makes a Norlha product special?
Norlha products are made with care by each artisan. The makers and the consumers alike learn to love and cherish the products. They are timeless in today’s fast-paced world of fashion. They bring back the values of ethics and quality, and bring pride to artisans, designers and consumers alike.
What are your favorite products for this holiday?
The natural collection is my favorite. The Nomad Grey Nets is light, warm and soft in color. It is a great companion through the winter months.
What else would you like to share about your company?
We are like a family and our care for each other as well as the product is what makes us successful. We hope everyone can enjoy the product and see its value in not only what it brings you as an individual, but what it has brought to the Tibetan nomads and their livelihood. Yak wool has been central to the lives of Tibetan nomads for centuries, and we are proud that at Norlha we have once again been able to bring an added value to yaks as the source of livelihood for the Tibetan nomads.
*All proceeds go to local workers and the cultural advancement of Tibet.
To see more Norlha products, you can visit the Norlha website at norlhatextiles.com