Interview with Kim Yeshi, our Founder
Until I delved into the matter, I associated luxury with provenance and innate quality. 50 years ago, travel brought the satisfaction of buying items that were world famous, but particular to a place; gloves from Italy, tartans from Scotland, watches from Switzerland. These objects reflected the particular skills of artisans who were proud of their work and passed their talents down generations. Nowadays, one travels the world to find the same brands in Paris, Hong Kong or New York and more than not, luxury is defined by brand, image and look.
This concept remains central in what luxury means to me today, though richer in depth and meaning. In Norlha’s context, luxury is what makes it possible for us to exist; a village level enterprise cannot produce quantity, and a highly skilled workforce using precious raw materials can only aim for a high level market.
Norlha hopes to redefine the meaning of luxury as most see it now. It should be synonymous with high quality materials, careful craftsmanship, faultless design and carry with it an ethical conscience. We trained our weavers, all issued from the local community, into world class artisans who take pride in working with a precious fiber from the animal that stands at the heart of their culture. Norlha has lifted yak khullu from near oblivion and the artisans’ time and skill became invested in the making of precious items, ones that must be perfect enough to draw the appreciation of the most discerning clientele, those with the purchasing power and the mind to appreciate the value of provenance and fine craftsmanship. It has also brought a whole community into the markets of the 21st century, and hopefully showing the way to more.
Our most prized blankets are made from yak khullu that takes a single spinner 23 days to spin before being woven, and our carpets take 130 days to hand knot. Each crafted piece passes through a series of steps that take at least 8 pairs of hands to define and ensure our quality standard. Ultimately, we hope that our customers will appreciate their investment in a timeless product that contributes to positive social and environmental bettering of the planet.
the growth of business > started looking to support the community >diversify their income > lead to more wealth in the community > need for more sustainability > deeper understanding of the impact we were having
Do you think there is such a thing as sustainable luxury?
Yes, sustainable luxury is not only possible, but, in a better world, should define luxury. It means to encompass a well remunerated, happy workforce, one that ensures, through their skill and dedication, the making of a product that is innately and organically ethical, one that will lasts generations and does not contribute to the epidemic of waste that our planet is currently facing.
You say that Norlha is responsible for the impact on the environment, the employees, the community, and your customers. What does this mean?
First and foremost, Norlha’s sense of responsibility lies in its employees. We believe that only with a content and happy workforce can we be truly sustainable and produce a product of high quality. We invest in training people who value and need their jobs, changing their lives and investing in their trust and support, thus reciprocating that sense of responsibility. Norlha employs 34% of the local community and we have built a relationship based on trust. We believe in investing in our community’s future generations ensuring our company’s solid foundations.
The importance we hold in the environment has been the driving force in our choice of an ethical fiber, one that is often referred to as 'vegan' due to its natural molting properties that insure that the animals are not mistreated in the harvesting process. All our transformation techniques are low energy and adapted to the resources of a small village enterprise. Our products are primarily handmade. As a textile atelier, we feel that it is important to educate our consumers on making the right decisions by sharing information and creating awareness on the impact of textiles on the environment. We are also part of community programs to create environmental awareness among our employees. We are responsible towards our customers, for giving them a product of real value, on that is true to its origin, was made by loving hands and can be passed on to future generations.
What does being a lifestyle brand mean? Norlha is more than just a factory, more than just a producer of scarves, blankets, a coat or a hat. We have a story to tell. We bring you the precious fiber of a free-ranging yak that for centuries has been central to a way of life. We connect our customers with the people who make our creations; their lives, their beliefs and their values. We are a community of people who share certain values and this is what we would like to share with the world through our creations.
What is sustainability to you? Why is Norlha sustainable?
Sustainability means: 1) Having a business that has the potential to be successful Even with the best intentions, without success, there is no result and no impact 2) Being responsible: towards one’s employees, customers and the environment Norlha has engaged in the long road to sustainability. We have filled in the lacks and overcome the obstacles inherent to developing a workshop in a remote rural area. We have trained people whom we pay well and developed a long-lasting product with a minimum carbon footprint. Our company is circular and profits get reinvested into the company.