Norlha; a Mother-Daughter Team

Norlha’s core is a mother-daughter team that ignited from a passion for textiles and my wish to start something in Tibet. It didn’t begin that way, though. Dechen had no interest in textiles, but she loved film and photography, so in the summer of 2004, following her college graduation, I deviously offered her a trip to Tibet to ‘take pictures and find out about yak fiber’. The first year served as an introduction to what was for both of us a new world. A year later she returned with her younger brother Genam, and a mission; ‘buy 3 tons of raw yak khullu, process it and send the clean fiber to Katmandu for spinning and weaving… and take photos and film along the way’. It was quite a saga. She and Genam looked so young that people had trouble taking them seriously. We kept in daily contact by phone and lived the adventure together. It took them five months to buy and clean the fiber and get it on a butter truck to Lhasa, 3000 kilometers away, then to Katmandu where we finally found out what am amazing fiber yak is.

Within two years and without intending to, Dechen found herself living in Tibet running a workshop and starting her now three-daughter family with her husband Yidam. I firmly believed in the project, though few others did, but Dechen never wavered in her trust. I looked for the business opportunities and found the funds to get started.

We worked hand in hand; she built her local team single handed while I designed the threads and the products, contacted clients, traveling constantly between Beijing, Shanghai, New York and Paris, where we had our first success. She threw herself into the project with boundless energy. Together, we survived several crises that nearly brought Norlha down, changed the direction of our company from being a nameless supplier to a brand, making it into what it is today. Our cash flow being limited, we did as much as we could in house; we designed, organized, trained staff and photographed the products, the boundless pasture our studio and the models our artisans.

As a mother, I feel fulfilled, reflecting on the wonderful gift my daughter has given me in believing in our project, taking it in as her own and giving my life’s dream continuity.