Threads of Hope

The past few months have been extremely challenging for everyone.

Amidst the chaos of having our business turned upside down – and the heartache of seeing our partners in Nepal and bricks-and-mortar retailers in Canada and the US face unprecedented insecurity – there are still threads of hope keeping us optimistic about the future of Laundromat.

The lockdown continues in Nepal

While here in Canada things are gradually getting back to ‘normal’, Nepal, where all Laundromat Fair Trade knitwear is produced, remains under full lockdown. The date for reopening keeps getting pushed further and further back. With each new extension, the situation becomes murkier.

COVID-19 remains a serious problem in Nepal, and there are fears that the coming monsoon season will only make things worse. Every year, large parts of the country succumb to flood waters, forcing the temporary evacuation of small villages. More than half of Nepal’s emergency evacuation sites don’t have hand-washing facilities, and less than a quarter have the capacity to quarantine the sick.

The pandemic continues to put immense strain on an already fragile healthcare system. The tourist economy, which accounts for almost 10% of Nepal’s GDP, has come to a standstill. On top of that, Nepal normally relies on trade with neighboring countries to obtain essentials like food and fuel. An estimated 60% of communities in Nepal are now facing food scarcity as the country’s borders remain sealed.

Necessary as it may be to protecting the health of the most vulnerable, Nepal’s shutdown continues to have a devastating impact on local workers and small companies that do business in Nepal (including Laundromat). Strict lockdown measures mean that majority of the people responsible for making our sweaters haven’t yet been able to return to work. An embargo on exports and air traffic has disrupted our usual annual calendar.

But it’s our artisan partners – the women from rural villages who rely on knitting to support themselves and their families – who have been suffering most.

Hope springs from chaos

Throughout the crisis, we’ve been in close contact with our Nepali partners, doing whatever we can to help them through. It was during one of these phone conversations that we discovered our long-term supplier in Kathmandu had come up with a rather brilliant (and bold!) way to keep artisans employed.

Many of the women who knit Laundromat woolens work from their home villages. Normally this is a good thing as it limits their expenses and allows them to stay close to family and care for their children. But when they can’t get into the city to access the materials they need to fulfill orders, it becomes a barrier.

With movement in and out of Kathmandu limited to essential services, our partners needed a way to reach the knitters who live outside the city. So, in the middle of the night, they loaded a small truck with wool, which they then concealed with vegetables to avoid suspicion at the highway checkpoints.

Thanks to their daring ingenuity, our largest group of artisans received the supplies they needed to start knitting again. They also got some much-needed food for their families.

We have it on good authority that more ‘vegetable deliveries’ are planned for the coming weeks. We’re also encouraged by the recent news that some spinning and dyeing facilities on the outskirts of Kathmandu have been able to re-open at a decreased capacity.

We’re so inspired by the resourcefulness and dedication of our Nepali partners who are constantly making the most out of difficult situations.

What all this means for our customers

We are more determined than ever to keep things running smoothly for Laundromat customers and retailers. Thanks to a bit of forward-planning, we already have stock of your favorite sweaters – including our best-sellers – made and waiting in Nepal. As soon as air transport resumes (now predicted for June 30), we’ll be operating at full inventory again.

We are continuing to ship orders to our customers in Canada and the US as normal (although it may take a little longer than usual for your items to arrive – thanks for your patience!). Rest assured that all orders placed through our online store will be dispatched as soon as possible.

We will continue to do whatever we can to help our partners in Nepal get back on their feet. We’re also determined to support small brick-and-mortar stores here in Canada and the US who have had it tough lately.

Behind the scenes, we’re working on ways to make our brand more resilient by amplifying our online presence and developing new solutions for customers and retailers. More news on that to come!

Thank you as always for your support – it means more now than ever.