When Norlha was founded in 2007, its core principle was transparency. We created products that could be traced back to their origin, with a raw material bought at a fair price, with every stage of transformation controlled by Norlha to give our customers the very best that this fiber, yak khullu, can offer. Our efforts did not stop at the product, though; the whole reason behind Norlha being where it is, in a small village on the Tibetan Plateau, was to have this transformation of raw material into finished product done by the people living there.
Norlha’s products are the result of many parts; a rare fiber with exceptional qualities, a high level of workmanship and rigorous quality control. Another, less obvious though essential, ingredient to this complex mix is enthusiasm, pride in one’s work, and an endeavor for perfection. These integral parts of Norlha’s DNA rely entirely on the happiness index of Norlha employees, on their willingness to dedicate their efforts to the common goal, which relies on the confidence they have on being treated fairly.
Norlha never had to change its ways to embrace the principles outlined by Fashion Revolution because it is what we do, what we believe in and live for.
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On April 6, 2018 a group of 10 employees of Norlha travelled for the first time beyond the Plateau to Hong Kong to attend the premiere of the film Ritoma རུ་སྟོད་མ།, produced and directed by the Oscar winning Ruby Yang.
Ruby first came to Ritoma in 2012, and made a beautiful 12 minute film on Norlha. In 2016, she was back, her visit coinciding with a basketball tournament between teams from all over the area, hosted in Ritoma. It was then that she decided to make another film highlighting the unique life in the village through the window of basketball.
For the 7 men and 3 women, all members of Norlha’s basketball team, it was a three-dimensional experience; artisanship, basketball and seeing a new world for the first time. Having never flown before, some found it to be a terrifying experience, though air travel was not the first surprise; coming from the plateau, a place of infinite space where pasture and green hills meet the horizon, they found the beehive of Hong Kong daunting. ‘So many people in such concentration! I felt so small!’ some said trying to describe the experience. For people living as far inland as the Tibetan Plateau, it was a revelation seeing the ocean for the first time.
The players from Ritoma are all skilled artisans; weavers, tailors and dyers. Making a Norlha scarf or textile requires teamwork, just like basketball, and for this reason, the sport came naturally to all of them. The trip was a unique experience and a two way one. They discovered Hong Kong while the world discovered them through Ruby’s stunning film.
Photos courtesy of Bradley Aaron
• 120 employees, all native of Ritoma Village or the surrounding area
• Yak khullu, sourced from the Tibetan Plateau
• 60% women, 40% men
• Opportunity for young people who look to the future
• Fair wages that bring long term commitment
• Slow fashion concept that values high skill
• High skill that is valued by discerning customer
• Appreciation and understanding of the product that justifies the price
• Price tag that makes the business sustainable
• Perceived value that brings solid wages to the artisan
• Perceived value that nurtures the artisan’s pride
Norlha is a hub of creation, a place our master weavers and designers play with the infinite possibilities offered by the talent of our craftsmen and the exceptional materials we have at hand. Feather Waterfall is the result of this play, one on the tension between the warp and weft, in a weave combining very fine yak khullu and silk, bringing about the better of both worlds; the warmth of yak blending seamlessly with the delicate touch of silk. The scarf, developed six years ago, has a flowing texture that reminded us of a waterfall, evoking the many ways water is a part of life on the Tibetan Plateau; rivers of all different breadths and power, from a brook to the mighty Machu or Yellow River, flowing or iced over, as well as ponds, wetlands and lakes.
Feather Waterfall is what we call ‘wearable art’; a piece that can be enjoyed personally, with the lightness and comfort that it exudes and its exceptional texture. Feel is matched by look; a feast for the eyes thanks to the vibrancy of its colors and its exceptional draping qualities.