Behind The Brand - Est Wst Collective
Todays guest post was written before the devastating Earthquake in Nepal on Saturday. We are happy to report that the Est Wst team is on the ground and they have confirmed the well-being of their friends, family and staff. You can read an update here.
EST WST Collective is the vision of Jhana and Arya Cayton. A brother-sister team with roots in California and Kathmandu. The siblings found inspiration for the brand while traveling back to Nepal, where their parents spent 12 years in the 70’s and 80’s. Arya was born in Kathmandu and both Jhana and Arya spent the early years of their life in the small landlocked country. They explain a feeling of comfort and familiarity when they returned and knew they wanted to share the culture with the rest of the world. Once they started meeting local artisans and researching the issues facing the country, their determination to develop a sustainable model to support marginalized populations grew.
Nepal has been thru a rough 15 years, with a royal massacre that left the beloved royal family dead and a civil war and Maoist insurgency that killed over 16,000 people. At the same time, population has more than tripled in Kathmandu, the country’s only modern city. Tourism is soaring and land prices have risen acutely, but infrastructure and the standard of living remain stagnant, with unemployment at 40%. With the Himalayas comprising much of the country, Nepal has access to one of the richest water sources in the world. However, water shortages and power outages of up to 14 hours a day plague the people, due to extensive government corruption and extreme embezzlement of funds. As a result of this corruption, the general populace has begun losing hope in their leaders. Still after 9 years they haven’t been offered a constitution. Due to the lack of economic opportunity, 2/3rds of men between the ages of 15 and 44 are working abroad and an average of 1500 Nepalese leave the country every day.
EST WST is committed to creating economic opportunity in Nepal through their fair wage production facility, their rural development fund, and their partnerships with handloom weavers in rural villages. Nepal has a rich tradition of textile weaving, and handloom fabrics don’t require the use of electricity. Women are offered the opportunity to work from their villages where they can tend to their children and their land while their husbands are at work in Kathmandu or more commonly overseas.
All of the materials chosen by EST WST are sourced consciously with a commitment to sustainability or social assistance. In addition to their handloom collectives and sustainable textiles, their scarves are woven at a collective that houses and trains victimized women, hangtags and notebooks are handpressed from the natural loktah plant that grows wild in the foothills of Nepal, and waterproof lining is made from 100% recycled materials. “In a world where manufacturing is easier than ever before, it’s important that we make choices that have a positive rather than a negative impact. We do the hard work so consumers have a choice to buy an authentic product with a positive impact.”