Our partners in Nepal
In this article you will learn:
+ Why we encourage cooperation rather than building pressure on our partners
+ What is the relevance of pashmina shawls for Nepal
+ What we can do to ensure fair working conditions
1. Cooperation instead of exploitation
Nepal is one of the poorest countries in Asia. In the mountainous region between India and China, industrialization has only a moderate presence, access to international shipping lanes is remote, and air traffic is seriously hampered by the mountains. The best asset of this country lies in the hands of the millions of people who are looking for a job to earn the daily bread of her family.
For Westerners like us, the economic fabric of the country is difficult to comprehend. Therefore, anyone travelling to Nepal enters a different world. The stunning backdrop of the Himalayas, the traditional colourful clothes of the Nepalese, and the light-hearted laugh in their faces is amazing. Besides these exotic impressions, however, one should not forget the widespread poverty in the country. There are people, like the young taxi driver who drives a tiny, rusty taxi, that has not seen a MOT in Germany for decades. He harbours the big dream to acquire such a vehicle in ten or twenty years time to finally stand on its own. Here, the lucky ones are those factory workers making approximately one Euro a day. It is mainly women, who support themselves and their families.
We will not exploit this poverty. Accordingly, we have carefully selected our suppliers from the very beginning. Besides a great price, we first and foremost ensure all purchased pashminas are produced under traditional, human working conditions. Working in shawl weaving is hard enough: men sit for hours at the loom and weave in the traditional way while women twist the fringes in an exhausting detail work, iron, wash, and pack the finished Pashminas.
We commit to good working conditions
We are not satisfied with a sympathetic description of the production relations, but work as often as possible on site to learn first-hand about the working conditions. Furthermore, we refuse to hire labourers and seasonal workers because this employment relationship offers no long-term prospects to workers. For this reason, we regularly order several times a year instead of once per year. Hence, workers enjoy the longest possible period of employment.
We do not set unattainable goals for our suppliers. This is especially true regarding prices. Indeed, Western buyers spread fear and terror in Nepal with their constant negotiation in search of further price reductions. Now, this is less so for wholesalers as it is among workers, who end up suffering most price reductions. Leaving that aside, the producer usually reacts with miserable, even lower-quality cashmere products.
A side note on this subject seems appropriate. As we started to trade in cashmere products, we repeatedly heard the well-meant advice: you should make your developing world producers work as hard as possible. Moreover, true to the motto of the good old colonial masters, we were advised to put the manufacturer on the shortest possible leash while thumbscrewing on prices in order to earn the necessary respect for the trade. Fortunately, we disregarded all that advice. And rightly so, as this approach has paid off: suppliers reward our fair, open and also professional approach with superior quality. They know their work is appreciated, demanding from them everything humanly possible but nothing beyond. This reliability has earned us the respect and, above all, excellent products.
We owe too much to our workers and suppliers to treat them badly!