“My aim has and always will be centred on considered designs, coupled with Mongolian production - from start to finish. I hear first-hand the devastating effects that climate change and industry pressures have on herders and their livelihoods. Our pre-order model will allow herders to directly benefit from the revenues that are generated from their care and work, allowing them to better manage their cash-flow and retain their independence which is integral to nomadic culture.” — Oyuna Tserendorj
What inspired you to create the EARTH collection?
The Earth Day is in April, in Spring. Spring, when our Mongolian nomads comb their goats. Due to Covid they had a tough time last year. So we said how can we help? We thought about a campaign to generate more immediate income for them. That's how it came to life. Ideally we should have done it a few months earlier - but it is better late than never.
Why is the pre-order element important and how does this help herders in Mongolia?
Our nomads work tirelessly all year around, taking care of livestock and grasslands - in winter frost and summer heat. It takes three to four goats to comb enough cashmere for just one simple pullover. When the goats moult once a year in the Spring, nomads comb the precious undercoats - cashmere fibre. Only then do they get paid for the hard work that they have put in over the previous year. We wanted to bring this payment period forward in whatever small way we could.
Part of the proceeds from this campaign will go directly to nomads as Sustainability Awards via SFA. It will also support SFA's Breeding Improvement Programme, which is aimed at improving the quality of Mongolian cashmere, thus allowing nomads to reduce their goat herd sizes and in turn reduce the impact that these have on the precious land.
What are the challenges that herders in Mongolia are facing at the moment?
The herders always have been vulnerable to ad hoc sales rather than reaching long-term businesses. Constant price fluctuations lead to their vulnerabilities to market shocks. In some regions where the livestock population has overweighed stocking rate herders have to deal with the poor vegetation and low productivity of the rangeland. This directly results in inadequate body mass gain, nutrition and forage uptake, thus needing more cash savings to secure fodder, hay, health services. Since the breakup of the socialist regime in the early 90s, herders are being adapted to such ever-changing free-market driven socio-economic and institutional changes that impose new constraints as well as new opportunities.
Can you share your design process for the collection and the meaning behind the colours used?
As the idea behind the collection was mainly to support our nomads with conjunction of Earth Day, it was natural to build a collection around the Earth concept. EARTH COLOURS are represented in 4 groups to celebrate the Earth:
Collection pieces are designed to be wardrobe staples that one could pull out and put on with closed eyes, but at the same time without losing our signature elevated design details. Many of the styles are unisex. These are pieces for all ages, all genders and meant to accompany us on many wonderful journeys on this Earth.
The collection is made from Sustainable Fibre Alliance Certified cashmere, what does this mean?
It means that all cashmere is sourced from herder communities and products are made in factories that comply with SFA's Standard - the world’s first holistic sustainability standard for cashmere. At the heart of the standard are SFA's codes of practice, which outline best practice requirements that must be followed in order for producers to become SFA Certified. Please read more about it here: Sustainable Fibre Standard.
Do you think clothing can act as a vehicle for positive change?
Definitely. Clothing is one of the main forms through which we humans express ourselves, our views on the world, our taste and our choices. So it is a very direct tool for a positive change.
I am a consumer and maker at the same time. As a consumer I can make choices that can help steer the market offering. As a maker I have to put out the right product for consumers so that their choice is already considered for them from the environmental and social impact point of view..
The collection launched for Earth Day, what does Earth Day mean to you?
Earth is part of us. We cannot separate ourselves from our Earth - we have to take care of it if we all want to survive. And not to just survive, but flourish in its natural beauty and energy that gives us life and inspiration.