Made only with the highest quality, sustainable fabrics, Nineh is a fashion brand that treats their employees right for the benefit of all those involved. View their products, or continue reading to learn more on their fascinating story.
What drove you to start your business?
After working in the fast fashion industry for 15 years and seeing firsthand the lack of transparency, the exploitation of labor inside the factories, the amount of waste created by overdevelopment and overproduction, I have decided to start my own brand, Ninêh. My goal was to develop a slow fashion model and reject the fashion calendar most Fashion brands are forced to follow. I wanted to design pieces that are not only timeless but unique and made only with high end natural and sustainable materials. It was also very important for me to find the right factories. I sourced small family operations through my travels in India, each one specialized in their special craft.
Who are your employees or your artisans?
I work with Saheli women, a non-profit manufacturer in India that is supported by an Organization called IPHD The founder Madhu is very passionate about training rural women that have never had a paying job to be financially independent and teach them to be highly skilled artisans. These artisans are also offered a paid education for themselves and their families (some of these ladies don’t even know how to read and write), health care and a living wage.
How did you find them?
I have been on an incessant search for a community of women artisans that inspire me. I found Saheli Women on Instagram and I knew I had to reach out right away. The founder, Madhu, was so sweet and receptive. We talk every week through what’s up, and she is always the first one to send me pictures of the ladies not just working on my designs but also leisurely being part of the Saheli family, taking part of cultural and everyday activities in their rural community of Bikamkhor. We have created a beautiful hang tag that tells the story of every women artisan that has been developing Ninêh’s design.
What do they mean to you?
They give me so much hope in spite of an industry that is tied to so much negativity. I wish there were more organizations that take care of their workers as well as Madhu takes care of her women artisans.
What made you decide to start producing ethically?
It’s been a long time coming. Ever since I started traveling to Asia almost 14 years ago, working for denim factories in the South of China and seeing the horrid conditions factory workers lived under ( Exposed to dangerous fumes and chemicals, living in bunkers away from their families, seeing babies lying in dirty factory floors next to their mothers) This stuck to me for all these years but I never had the courage to do anything about it. I was stuck in a vicious cycle, I was getting paid a decent salary, designing fun and trendy clothes for women, traveling all over the world. I started a family and after I had my two little girls, I grew increasingly disgusted of the fast fashion industry practices. I remember drowning in my office with samples that were never ordered, fighting with my boss for keeping cents on the dollar for a very intricate hand embroidered garment made by highly skilled but under-compensated artisans. I couldn’t take it anymore. I finally had the guts to quit my job and start my own company. I booked myself a trip to India and the rest is history
What impact has your business had on your community?
Ninêh gave me the voice to build a community of friends that now understand my purpose and, after nearly 1 year, they are slowly building better fashion habits, by stepping back on their purchases, buying less but buying from small sustainable brands like mine, that have a story to tell, that cares about the hand behind the handmade and also focus on timeless quality pieces that will last a lifetime and won’t go out of style after a season or two.
We are also just starting but I want to eventually be able to give back to a non-profit organization that supports women artisan’s rights, like donating a portion of our sales to NGO’s like Nest which I am a coop member and artisan fellow.
What was the most difficult part of starting and running your business?
I have two young daughters, 4 and 8, and I couldn’t afford to leave my fulltime job. Once I started my company, was literally working 3 jobs or 5, and I have to be honest it has been really hard or close to impossible to juggle. But I am so grateful for having such an amazing and supportive husband. I still can’t believe I traveled to India for 1 month searching for suppliers and factories while he handled the chaos in my house like a dad (I mean, not any different than what a mom would do. I guess he doesn’t need to hear so much praise). It might have been taking longer than I intended but my motivation and my goal keeps me going.
What has been the most rewarding outcome of your business?
Meeting with the artisans and working with them in a regular basis (weekly on ‘Whats up’ video) and feeling like we are part of their family. Every time I send something new, they get excited and their training begins. I love hearing about their lives, aspirations, dreams, hobbies. When I go to India this is by far the best and most rewarding part of my job.
What is your company’s mission?
Ninêh’s mission is to create an emotional connection between our customer and the makers and use the best sustainable qualities mother earth has to offer.
Faire.Shop strives to bring 100 million women out of poverty. Please help us estimate the impact of Faire.Shop’s network by sharing the number of women who you are supporting. We appreciate whatever input you can offer to aid our estimates—a rough guess is better than nothing.
I support the work of Saheli Women, a non-profit manufacturer in India. All profits go to the artisans, and as they scale, Madhu’s goal is to make them partners of the company. She only hires and trains 20-25 women at a time.
I also work with 2 other small family operations that treat women equally, provide them a living wage, a safe/clean environment and flexible working hours, so they can spend the time they need with their families.
- How many women do you help employ through your supply chain? Approx 35
- How many men do you employ through your supply chain? Approx 5-10
- How many women do you assist OUTSIDE of employment through education, training, sponsoring, mentoring, charity, or other beneficial means? (Please explain) Saheli women is supported by a non-profit agency in India called IPHD that supports rural/disadvantaged women through education, artisan training, healthcare, family assistance and fair wages. They only hire 20-25 women