Our mission is to stabilize economies in the developing world through creating dignified jobs by investing in indigenous, artisanal businesses who collaborate to produce our contemporary designs via age-old techniques. In doing so, we are keeping heritage handicraft alive and providing local employment in societies where those with little or no education are at risk of being trafficked to other countries or enslaved in migrant worker schemes abroad.
We partner with people and organizations that mirror this mission because they love and understand their country far more than we ever can. We consider it an honor to work alongside these teams. We are humbled by their expertise and willingness to take on our projects.
OUR TEAM INCLUDES:
The Association for Craft Producers Nepal (ACP):
Founded in 1984 with just 38 producers, ACP now employs over 1,200 artisans, of which 90% are female. ACP recognizes the need for female employment in both rural and urban settings, providing opportunity for both. Situated at the foot of the Himalayas, ACP also recognizes the exquisite beauty of their country and as stated on their website, “takes careful and deliberate steps to preserve our environment”.
The current Executive Director, Meera Bhattaraihas nurtured the growth of ACP for over ten years placing it at the forefront of the Fair Trade movement in Nepal. She understands the plight, particularly of women in Nepal and fosters an environment of “future-thinking”. In addition to a fair wage, each employee is provided with an interest bearing retirement fund, a monthly stipend for employees who keep their children in school for 4 consecutive years, a medical allowance, and a Producer’s Alliance which protects and encourages knowledge of employee rights. Most of these benefits are not the norm in the developing world and certainly not a right.
We took a wrong turn down an alley in Patan’s Durbar Square and wandered in to the surprising studio and passion project of Pravin Chitrakar. A true visionary, our journey with Pravin and his team of artisans has been nothing but rewarding. His commitment to keeping Nepali handicraft alive and thriving is so contagious, you can’t help but intentionally design projects for his team to create. He understands Nepal more than anyone I have met in this process. He loves his country with such dedication, you know he’s in it for the long haul.
Pravin is an artist first. Therefore, his outlook on the world around him is largely aesthetic. He doesn’t see an old house falling in on itself. No, he sees an opportunity to construct a creative space for artisans to display and sell their work. Instead of building a factory, he found a space with a garden in the middle so his metal workers could work in an airy space with ventilation and sunshine. He’s built an expansive atelier which includes: metalsmithing, weaving and paper making. He understand without a doubt that in order for Nepali handicraft to stay alive, it must adapt to the market, which therefore makes working with him and his team a collaborative dream.
Featured in the photos above is Mahendra. We love his story because is represents innovation, hope and risk. He was working as the security guard for Pravin’s studio. One day when they were chatting, Pravin asked him what he’d want to do if you could anything. Turns out, he really wanted to learn the art of metalsmithing. We wanted to make jewelry. So, Pravin took a chance on him and now he is one of Yala’s finest artisans. He made our samples, which were and are exquisite. We also love that Pravin named his sister his Chief Financial Officer. Julia, pictured top right is a calm yet driving force in the business. Both brilliant and gracious, she is a part of what makes Yala Mandala mission so successful. She is also a major advocate for the women’s equality movement in Nepal.
Yala Mandala produced our entire jewelry collection as well as our gift boxes.
Making something is always a process. It’s different for everyone and everything, particularly when you choose to make your things in far-away places like Nepal.
Our design process is a collaborative experience that evolves over conversations about what we like, what we see trending in the marketplace and what can actually be made in Nepal. We sketch ideas, play with patterns, send emails, sew samples and source hardware. We often hand-carry or ship our hardware to Nepal as it is difficult to find quality hardware there. Rome Fastener in Connecticut has been a great help to us. We love that they are a long-time Made in the USA, family-run business and take the time to work with the small guys like us. Our newest partners Yala Mandala, based in Nepal are exploring hand-forged hardware with us. It is our hope that at some point every element of our pieces will be made in Nepal.
We plan our trips to Nepal based on market deadlines. Things take time in Nepal so we build our delivery schedules knowing this. Full production once samples are approved takes anywhere from 2-4 months. It’s imperative to spend time with our artisans in the development process — it’s essentially our reason for being. Currently we are there for 4-8 weeks a year, but it never seems like long enough. the time spent with our teams is focused on getting our samples to a place that we are confident that they will be carried through full production. It’s always hard to leave. Despite the endless turmoil in Nepal, it is an incredibly hospitable country that takes you in and treats you like its own.
We currently work with four different groups in the Kathmandu Valley. Our time on the ground is split between meetings, spending time with artisans, working on samples, sourcing natural materials and researching new ideas. Each year, we are thrilled to meet more like-minded individuals who are not only creating dignified jobs for the Nepali people, but honoring their heritage and keeping age-old handicraft alive. Plus, exploring in the valley and villages is an endless source of inspiration. You never know what you will find. We met Yala Mandala our jewelry partners by taking a wrong turn down an alley.
Our favorite part of this venture is ultimately meeting the artisans, learning about their lives and working alongside them. It’s so very different from our daily lives, it’s both humbling and inspiring to hear about what they must overcome on a daily basis. They know so much more about how things can be done than we do. Being knee-deep in their creative process is a joy that there really are no words for.
We are reminded when we face challenges in our production or quality issues, that these are all part of the process. Life is hard in Nepal, and working there is no exception. Recently two massive earthquakes shook this already fragile country to its core. Nepal will be rebuilding for years to come. As a result of this, we are even more committed to investing in our current partners, seeking stability and continued growth for them. They persevere. We persevere. And it’s in the midst of this bustling creative process where beauty is created and lives are changed.
As stated above, collaboration is the name of the game for us. MULXIPLY wouldn’t exist without Nepal and it wouldn’t exist without YOU. Every single piece that makes its way to our website, to your shop, and to your hands, brings with it a story. Thank you for being part of it.
Being a western woman in the developing world is a bit of an odd thing. Not because we are generally heads taller, shades paler and always sweatier than the locals, no, the “odd” is what happens in your head. It’s wild here. Humanity is raw, it’s not sanitized or pre-packaged. It’s just down-right messy. So, inevitably you find your head spinning with questions that boil down to The One Big Question, “How is this fair?”.
It stops you in your tracks. Facing this mind-bending question of why each of us is born in to our place in the world is a hard hurdle to get over. I don’t know if you ever can. Honestly. Because the thing is, not one of us has the ability to choose the life we are born in to.
We all ask the “Why me?” in our daily lives, particularly when things aren’t going our way, when we feel unlucky, wronged, ripped-off, etcetera, whatever. But when you see small children with missing limbs begging on dusty streets or a destitute mother surrounded by her hungry babies, the issue of injustice becomes a little more hard-hitting. “Why them?” “Why not me?”
But, I’ve learned to stop asking this question with the intent of seeking an answer. There is no answer. Some might say oh that’s just bad karma. Others will say this is evidence that there is no God because a loving God would never allow such injustice. But there is no easy approach to this. And quite frankly, it is we humans who inflict injustice on each other, indirectly or directly. We can’t blame God or Karma. We can’t. We have to own the fact that we live on planet where there’s a lot of harm done in the name of self-preservation or power. There’s a lot of fall-out from bad choices made by ourselves or others. That’s the reality.
But that’s not the end of the story. The “Why?” can be the impetus to the “How?” How can we who have much help those who have little? How can we who were born in to relative ease and privilege help those who have felt nothing but pain since they left the womb? How can we be Grace to one another? And that, I believe is the true answer to the question of “Why?”. That’s where The Why ends and The How begins.
It is hard to describe the feelings I (Annalisa) have been experiencing over the last week. They’re somewhere on the continuum between excitement and anxiety. While I knew we were ready to come to Nepal to begin the execution phase of this incredible journey, I don’t think I was mentally prepared for arriving here. Truthfully, I don’t think that anyone from the US can really be prepared for seeing Kathmandu for the first time.
Tanja called her blog Beauty Lost & Found. It’s an apt title – and I was thinking about exactly that as we drove from the airport to our hotel. There is beauty here; the women’s faces and saris, the beautiful fruits and vegetables being sold at the roadside, the old brick buildings with their detailed ornamentation work and carved wooden doors, the temples, the colors of marigold and pink and orange that you see amidst the haze that settles in the valley.
But as we drove through the streets (an adventure in itself – think of a giant game of chicken between cars, motorbikes, rickshaws, buses & trucks, pedestrians and stray dogs), we saw trash everywhere, homeless children, a river polluted with raw sewage, people scrabbling out a basic existence by selling food in the hot sun… and more. Down-river, there was smoke. “That’s where they burn the bodies,” Tanja said. We drove on. We arrived at our hotel perhaps 20 minutes after leaving the airport. All that, in 20 minutes. I fought to hold back tears then, and we were only at the beginning, and watching from a distance, so to speak.
It is exactly this which confirms that we are supposed to begin here, and begin now. This is where we can do something. This is where we can serve. We don’t really know what awaits us tomorrow, when we meet with the first of the co-ops, but we are hopeful, and hope is needed here. It truly is.
We discovered HOLSTEE and their super inspiring manifesto a few months ago, right around the time we started GIVEGIVE.
They just did a really awesome collection of stories of people that are making shifts in their lives to do something different, following their passions, etc. And, they included us in their collection. We are thrilled!
At least once a week, Annalisa and I both have these “what are we thinking?” moments. Starting a business is equally exciting and terrifying. We are good at some parts of the equation, and other parts we really don’t have a clue. Part of what makes this endeavor fun is learning new things. Part of what makes it scary is the realization that there sure are a lot of new things we need to learn!
I’ve been rereading one of my all-time favorite books— “A Long Obedience in the Same Direction”, by Eugene Peterson. Its forthcoming and truthful message is that anything that we are passionate about, anything that stirs us to a lifetime of commitment, anything that requires a serious act of commitment and sacrifice, is in fact, a pilgrimage. A concept we hear very little of in our google-it-quick world. We are an impatient people and we want what we do to be act-and-react, start-and-succeed. This I know.
So we at GIVEGIVE are on a pilgrimage. This is a journey over unfamiliar terrain. We will ask a lot of questions along the way. We have to get comfortable asking for a lot of help. We will need to sit down and take rocks out of our shoes. We’ll probably need to turn around at times and retrace our steps. We’ll probably even want to quit and retreat to the comfort of the familiar at times. That’ll be normal. And that’ll be okay.
But, along the way, we’ll see incredible vistas, meet amazing people, hear stories of life-change. We’re bound to be indebted to countless hands who help. We’re going to learn more than we ever imagined and definitely arrive at a different place than we started.
“The experience of being in-between—
between the time we leave home and arrive at our destination;
between the time we leave adolescence and arrive at adulthood;
between the time we leave doubt and arrive at faith.
It is like the the time when a trapeze artist
lets go of the bar and hangs in midair,
ready to catch another support:
it is a time of danger, of expectation,
of excitement, of extraordinary aliveness.” – Paul Tournier, A Place in Time
So, here’s to the pilgrimage of extraordinary aliveness!
One of the key tenets of GIVEGIVE is that we believe in the power of love to heal, to empower, to uplift and transform lives. To say that you love someone or something is to say that you believe that person or that thing. So when we say that GIVEGIVE is designed with love and made with hope, this is what we mean. We believe in the power of creative work to change women’s lives, and the world, for the better. Let’s face it, we are all in this together.
Happy Valentine’s Day.
One of the most exciting things in life is to start something – something new, something BIG, something daring, something meaningful, something worthwhile. And starting can be scary. But one of the things I’ve learned in my almost-40 years on this earth is that if you have a partner at your side, it’s not as daunting as doing it on your own.
That said, Tanja and I (Annalisa) have been hard at work starting GIVEGIVE. We’re learning as we go, and we have already learned so much, and been blessed by so many people offering their help, experience, and insights. We are thankful. While our business model and designs are “crystalizing”, as Tanja likes to say, the one thing that hasn’t evolved over the last few months is our mission. That’s been clear from day one.
GIVEGIVE is a fair-trade fashion brand. Our mission is to provide sustainable, creative work to women in developing nations — work that minimizes their risk of entry into abusive vocations such as forced prostitution and bonded labor. GIVEGIVE is designed with love and made with hope.
We are delighted and excited to share with you our experiences in developing our company and transforming lives. We hope you’ll join our mailing list and keep checking in on us. You can find us on Facebook, Twitter, and right here via our RSS feed.