As many of you who follow me on Instagram will know I visited Nepal in April of this year and took the opportunity to meet up with the three factory owners who we work with in Kathmandu for our Cleverly Wrapped Knitwear.
All of them are small but long established family businesses who strive to have a positive impact on the environment, society and the economy – something that was important to me too.
In the first factory that I visited with my husband Simon the factory owner had previously been a member of the British army serving in Nepal, but on retiring from his military duties he and his wife decided to remain in the area and set up a small knitwear factory. For the past 20 years he and his eldest son have been in partnership with a Tibetan refugee, Tashi (pictured above) whose expertise, amongst many things, is sourcing materials, including high quality cashmere, lambswool, cotton and linen.
The company’s lambswool comes from farmers whose sheep populate the mountainous Himalayan foothills. Their cashmere is harvested from the goats in the plateaus. The health and wellbeing of these animals is of huge importance and the nomadic herds are allowed to wander freely. Furthermore, the animals are shorn by skilled shearing teams to make sure that the process is efficient and cruelty free.
The UK Connection
The owner’s son lives in the UK (in Hampshire in fact!) which has enabled me to build a great working relationship with both him and the factory, resulting in a succinct and reliable supply chain.
He and his wife and daughters visit Nepal at least once a year, not only so his children get to see their grandparents but also so that he can oversee production first-hand and ensure they’re meeting their customers’ expectations in terms of service, quality and delivery. This is also the perfect opportunity for him to catch up with the workers too – some he has known for almost 20 years – and to participate in the business’s ongoing efforts to invest actively in Kathmandu’s local community.
The company currently employs about 50 people, a workforce that comprises mainly of young women who are usually the main income earners within their family group. They are well paid for their skills and have excellent working conditions, something the company feels are basic rights. They have introduced facilities into the workplace that would seem normal in the United Kingdom but are not so common in South Asia – for example, clean drinking water machines and proper toilet facilities. There is very little staff turnover and many of the employees have been with the company from the very beginning, their continued presence valued as the company has grown.
The company has two production sites in Nepal where they manufacture their high-quality knitwear. The garments are made on hand machines – a labour intensive and skilled process. The machines knit the garments into the correct shape, style and measurements, using pre-made design patterns. The garments are then assembled and hand finished, before passing quality control and being packaged for shipping.
Meet Some of the Team
Binita (above) sets up the knitting machines, to the required style eg. a cable-stitch sweater, then she loads the bobbins, wound with pre-dyed yarns and begins to knit the individual elements in sections – the front and back bodice, the sleeves, the arms etc. A single garment takes approximately one day to knit and Binita stays with the machine the entire time, to ensure the stitching and yarn tension remain consistent.
There are 30 machines in one room, each set up to knit garments of different gauges/weights.
The ladies above are linkers. It is their job to receive the individual garment parts then stitch them together initially by hand before they are put on the linking machines.
This room (above) contains the linking machines, where the garments are pieced together. Ray is one of the only males working in the factory and has been with the company for 15 years.
It is Aanya’s responsibility to then check every garment for any dropped stitches or flaws, which she then corrects by hand.
Sanu (above) and Alok are responsible for pressing the garments and folding them prior to them being packaged for shipping.
Sonam (above) is Head of Production and the main liaison between the factory and the UK.
This is me visiting the office in Kathmandu with Karma who was the most amazing host and even helped us reclaim our lost luggage from the airport! Without him we would have been in all sorts of trouble!
The company continually strives to be environmentally aware, using as many local materials as they can and by using neighbouring suppliers, thereby creating work for people outside the business. All the packaging, tags and gift boxes are sourced locally, as well as the transport and shipping services that move their goods. This approach contributes to creating a rich source of income for the community.
In parallel with their business growth, it is the company’s ethos to support and give back to the local community where they are based.
They recruit and train people from the local communities and actively support local schools, charities and hospitals with much needed funds.
Above is a photograph of one of the schools they have helped build – Peace Garden Secondary School in Khokana, Lalitpur. These are children from poor families, so the company contributes towards their uniform costs.
Factory workers also regularly visit the school to dispense vitamin A tablets – a much needed supplement that counteracts pupils’ poor diets. De-worming tablets are essential too, to reduce the level of unwellness and absenteeism.
Below is a picture of me and Simon visiting the school which was a highlight of our trip to Kathmandu.
The second factory we visited is a much larger operation and is responsible for producing all of the best selling Cleverly Wrapped Classic Cashmere scarves as well as new knitwear production for AW23.
Below is a picture of Prem and Maya the owners of the third generation family business. I have always dealt with Prem in the past but it was great to get to know Maya and discuss some future product development ideas with her.
And my final visit was to a much smaller family run factory who make our men’s knitwear and our breton stripe cashmere scarves.
As with the factories above the hospitality we received was incredible. We were driven everywhere and even taken for a traditional Nepali lunch! In the picture below I am with Padam and his wife. As you can see from all the pictures wherever we went we were gifted a traditional Nepali scarf.
Me doing fit tests on new jumpers for AW23. Hard when not wearing jeans!
Cleverly Wrapped’s Knitwear Collection
Following a number of Hampshire based meetings as well as my recent trip to Nepal I am delighted to now be stocking a really beautiful collection of women’s jumpers, cashmere scarves and men’s gilets. Not only is the quality exceptional but I’m pleased to be indirectly supporting ethical family businesses that actively look after their employees and support the local community too.
Our knitwear is spun from either a very soft blend of cashmere and merino wool– or for spring/summer we’ve introduced some pure organic cotton knits. This yarn is GOTS (Global Organic Textile Standards) certified. This certification covers the processing, manufacturing and trading of organic textiles. Each piece is designed to be an understated classic, destined to be in your wardrobe for years to come. Subtle details eg. a contrast stripe, buttons across the shoulder or zip up the back, add a chic and stylish edge.
Our best selling Men’s Cashmere Wool Gilet is currently available in Navy, Teal, Charcoal Grey, Burgundy and Heathered Purple
HIGHLIGHTS FROM THE NEW CW KNITWEAR COLLECTION