Kim, Dechen and Norlha staff meeting the tent office before the move, September 2007

An anniversary blows in a whiff of reminiscence. 14 years have gone by since Norlha’s workshop moved out of the tent camp where we had begun training our staff in the Spring of 2007. In September, I had come for a visit, and found the workshop nearing completion. We had no architects or engineers then, and Dechen had pulled it off, basing herself on a typical nomad settlement house, x 10. I was proud, it looked grand and the artisans and staff were buzzing with excitement. We had gathered in our office tent and the sun was still warm, the pasture buzzing with insects. Two months later, we moved in. Dechen wrote in her journal:

“It was early November, the grass had turned yellow. The weather was growing increasingly crisp, the tents were dismantled and the equipment moved. From the outside, the completed workshop stood firm against the hill, blending in with the autumn pasture, as if it had always been there.  It looked grand, real. For two years, Kim and I had talked of our ‘project’, and watched people treat it as a fantasy, as no one had done anything like that so far. The new workshop gave our dreams a reality, which all those around us now shared. Inside, everything looked as it should have, the looms in their place, the finishing tables under the skylight, the shelves as I had designed them and even the yarn was stacked and labeled as I had instructed. This is the start of a journey. These solid walls are a reminder that there is no turning back”
Norlha staff, November 2007 & Norlha women moving earth from the finished structure

We now had near 70 local employees, ranging from 18 to 70. An important milestone marked our move into the new workshop: We had mastered the weaving of our first shawls, the one we now call ‘nomad’. We had also completed our first photo shoot and were ready to try our luck in Paris. Ritoma was only accessed by a dirt road and there was no internet, but everyone felt proud and energized and the future looked bright.

The Norlha employees enjoying a break from finishing touches on the workshop, November 2007
An elderly Norlha spinner, spinning yak wool on a drop spindle & Norlha women at work November 2007

These memories also serve to measure our evolution, where we were then and where we are now. Our staff, which began at 20 in the Spring of 2007, is near 100, and a new generation of artisans and managers, many of whom were children when we started, have been meeting new challenges. This small village of yaks and nomads has been the incubator for our evolution. Today, Norlha is a lifestyle brand that proves that yak has a place on the luxury market and that sustainable development in a remote area can reach out to the world. We remain true to our commitment to the environment, to our community and to our clients, all the while moving forward to consolidating and perfecting, meeting the challenges of today’s world.

 Kim Yeshi

November 1st, 2021

 Weaver operating the flying shuttle looms, brought over from Nepal

Checking stock in the first Norlha office. December 2007