Danfe Works was established in 2015 as the sister organisation of SAATH working with marginalised women in Nepal. The label was launched in response to the earthquake of 2015 to provide training to young girls in Sindhupalchowk and creating job beneficiaries. Working with local artisans and developing their crafts, the brand practices an ethical and eco-friendly approach. Kritishma Karki is the Co-founder of Danfe and a person committed to forging the way toward sustainability with a strong focus on Nepal’s cultural heritage and indigenous skills. Her approach is also to step away from the format of sustainability imposed by Western countries and create what works best for her brand. Here Kritishma talks about her work and design sensibilities.
What does it mean to be a sustainable brand
There is no simple answer to being a sustainable brand in Nepal. To bring to life a completely sustainable product from zippers and buttons to inner linings is impossible. As we are very fast in catching onto what westerners throw at us, a crucial issue is the inability to understand critically the repercussions of adapting to western cultures and concepts. Over these years, we have started to search for our definition of sustainability. It is so much more challenging to create a market while ensuring all our resources define us as a truly sustainable brand. We are in the process of redefining sustainability.
Sustainability is a recently marketed concept that we have been imposed with due to changing circumstances. Beyond just having an eco-friendly approach to our brand, we need to put effort into producing good quality products that can truly change consumer behaviour. We have to aware and educate our customers to invest in high-quality pieces while they feel that they get good value for their money. Just saying you are eco-friendly is not enough.
A pair of jeans is technically a sustainable wardrobe choice because you can wear it 15 years down the lane. Using sustainable fiber doesn’t relate to sustainable fashion which essentially requires it to be long-lasting, reusable and timeless. Keeping these things in mind, Danfe emphasises on durability, comfort and style without harming the environment.
Designs and Collections
The natural collection is a transition of Danfe into becoming a sustainable and ethical brand. The collection was introduced in 2020 but was put to a halt due to the pandemic. Designer Manisha has worked on the majority of collections and currently we are playing with bamboo fabric. Danfe’s designs are about the purpose of creating pieces that can be worn five years down the lane with multiple possibilities, functionality and style.
The fibers are produced from bamboo which is already available in nature and is not environmentally harmful with our method. We use natural dye in majority of the products using azo-free dye which is eco-friendly and eliminates the use of toxic compounds like bleach and nitrogen, and is also approved by the European Union. Artificial dyes end up in our river sources and affect the whole ecosystem.
Collaborations with artists
Nepal has rich culture and art, and to develop a greater appreciation for it, we have teamed up with Sunyata Creatives. The designs of the tote bag have a combination of Mithila art and graphics intricately embedded to create aesthetics that also appeal and inspire younger generations.
We continuously seek to improve our processes from production practices and recycling to fair pay. Treating the brand with respect and ethics means building a sustainable and ethical environment. This means assessing the brand to add value to the country’s economy. It’s exciting to witness people making a conscious effort to purchase Made in Nepal products. These elements attempt to help a worker, tailors and team members secure their livelihood.
Working with marginalised women
The meaning of empowerment in a rural setting is different compared to in urban Nepal. Women in rural areas fall under a submissive role and do not contribute to decision-making as they are deprived of income generation. We are trying to create employment opportunities for them. We have worked with women from Musahar communities having discovered their innate skills of crocheting. We have trained women during the Dhanusa Dham Project. Skills are taught and refined to integrate into our designs.
In Sindhuplachowk, women trained under us are opening their ventures and earning a fair income to sustain themselves.
Together with SAATH we have envisioned working with rural women of Nepal and around 40-50 women have received training and employment during this project. They get training from SAATH and livelihood opportunities fromDanfe.