A social enterprise which began on the living room floor of a Kathmandu home, Dinadi Nepal has come a long way since it's humble inception in 2016. Despite significant growth, Dinadi's focus on creating employment opportunity for Nepali women, while creating timeless, sustainable and warm woollens has never waivered. Just our type, these beautiful products knit together ethics with aesthetics. We spoke to Preston, one of Dinadi's co-founders, to find out more:
- How would you sum up Dinadi in a single sentence?
Dinadi hires and trains women affected by gender discrimination and poverty (to hand-knit woollen accessories) because of the belief that job opportunities, not handouts, are the best way to combat poverty and exploitation.
- What does the word 'Dinadi' mean?
Dinadi means dawn, new beginning. It symbolises the fresh start that we want to provide to our employees.
- Is there a minimum wage in Nepal? Can you explain in your own words, the difference between a 'living wage' and a 'minimum wage'?
Nepal does have a 'minimum wage' which is a number set by the government as the minimum amount a company is allowed to pay its employees. Unfortunately, minimum wages in developing countries such as Nepal are often not enough to actually support a family and provide what is called a 'living wage'. For Dinadi, a 'living wage' is what we see as the minimum amount an employee needs to afford a decent standard of living that allows our knitters to be able to buy healthy food, pay for rent, buy clothing for themselves and their children, pay for school fees and cover other essential needs. We also want our knitters to have the ability to save a little each month that they can set aside for future investment.
- Other than the fact that you started the company to make a difference in the lives of the people of Nepal, what was the inspiration behind the actual products that you make?
We love natural fibres, especially wool because of the natural functionality and sustainable qualities that wool provides. We also love the idea of slow fashion, that products can be made in a way that lasts so that we can minimise our impact on the environment around us. Our roots in Sweden have also inspired our passion for Scandinavian and minimalistic design,
- Your hats and scarves are immaculately made - how long does each item take to complete?
Generally from 6-10hrs. Each knitter and product is unique, creating variance between products. However, when compared to a machine, our hand made items take a long time and are proudly made with care.
- How much training do you put your workers through?
We provide training that consists of 3 hr classes once a week for 14 weeks. Our knitters come to our office once a week for training and then are sent home with homework for the next week.
- You must have people lining up to work for Dinadi, and I can imagine you want to employ as many people as you can! How do you decide when to take on more staff, and how do you know who will be a good fit for the team?
Yes, we do have a long line up and trying to choose who to hire is a difficult and emotional task! When we hire new knitters we look at two aspects: need and potential for success. We try to understand and assess the needs of each woman who has applied for a job but also look at factors like motivation and self-discipline that we believe are necessary for them to succeed once given an opportunity.
- Do you intend to expand to different countries?
We are always working hard to increase sales in order to create more jobs and more opportunities for as many ladies as possible. We would love it if in the future that could include expanding both production and marketing to more nations.
- You moved to Nepal with your wife and kids - how did your kids feel about the move, and do they help in the workshop?
Our children were a little reserved about the idea of moving to Nepal but now that they’ve lived in Nepal more than seven years it’s become their home. They have wonderful friends here and even though the practicals of life can sometimes be challenging in Nepal, we enjoy the adventures of living in here. The kids are quite busy at school but enjoy coming up to the office when they can to interact with our employees and do what they can to help. We often have social activities with our employees that our kids and the kids of our employees enjoy being a part of.
- Have you seen much of a change towards more ethical and sustainable practices - both in the industry and from your customers - since you have been running Dinadi?
Yes, there is definitely a growing interest in ethical and sustainable practices as customers around the world become more aware of these issues. We are seeing more and more customers who are willing to pay the extra price that ethical and sustainable practices cost. This is a positive trend that we hope continues to grow.
- You have a huge amount of information on your website, do you think that transparency is going to become the norm for fashion brands?
We really hope that the fashion industry will become more transparent in order for consumers to be more responsible in their purchasing habits. We believe that as a brand we can encourage others to become more transparent by being transparent ourselves. Customers have a lot of power and if they demand transparency, fashion brands will be forced to comply.
- Your employees are largely female, is there a reason for this?
In developing countries, women and children are usually the most vulnerable. We know that if we support women they will be able to not only care for themselves but also care for their children and create a chain reaction of social change.
- What is next for Dinadi?
As mentioned above, our goal is to create opportunities for as many women as possible. Creating these opportunities is the driver behind everything we do. We hope to continue to increase both our market share but also awareness for issues in Nepal - and awareness for ethical and sustainable practices within the world of fashion. Currently, we are working on a new collection of knitted accessories and are even exploring the possibility of making sweaters in the future.
Shop the collection here or to find out more, visit Dinadi's website.