AURA QUE Behind the Products

Page 1


MISSION STATEMENT Every AURA QUE design is a collaboration between UK designer Laura Queening and the small producer groups she works with in Asia. We look to use traditional skills and local materials as much as possible, aiming to encourage empowerment through work for the individual producers who make our products. Each product is brought to life in various charity handicraft units or WFTO producer groups that employ local people that may be affected by discrimination or disabilities, providing an income for themselves and their families according to fair trade principles. Designer Laura Queening is passionate about working directly with small producer groups and charities, thriving on the technical challenges throughout the creative process, whilst working face to face with interesting people from different cultures and feeding her wanderlust! We really hope to create beautiful quality products and gifts that can be treasured and used season after season, whilst considering ethical and environmental principles as much as we can. The people we work with are important to AURA QUE, with our main aim to encourage empowerment of disadvantaged people in countries such as Nepal. We hope that you enjoy using our products as much as we enjoy designing and making them!


Working in a developing country like Nepal is always challenging but is made all the better by the warm friendly people within the organizations that we collaborate with. It is important for us to continue to provide these small producer groups and handicraft units with work to empower the people who work there as well as help the charities and projects affiliated with these organizations. In Kathmandu, we work with six producer groups, some who are members of WFTO (World Fair Trade Organization) and the Nepal Fair Trade Group but we also work with some fantastic small family businesses and other charity handicraft units that are not as well established. Laura has worked closely with these groups so we are happy to collaborate and work with them on new products.

OUR MATERIALS & MAKING PROCESS AURA QUE incorporates local materials wherever possible, promoting traditional skills and processes, to increase production and supply within the developing country such as Nepal that we work with. Please read further to find out about the different materials and artisans we work with....


Our range of wool accessories are handknitted by a women’s project in Bhaktapur, which is part of WFTO member collective. The women take the pieces home to knit each week, so they are able to earn an income around their family commitments, giving them work flexibility. They deliver the pieces completed each week and they are stitched with black fleece lining to finish the items, to give them extra warmth and softness near the skin for the customer. All pieces are hand-knitted from 100% wool and need to be handwashed to avoid felting and shrinkage.


For our mohair and merino products made from hand-operated knitting machines, we work with a high-end knitwear factory just outside of Kathmandu. With close attention to detail, their products are handmade with care, using high quality fibres of cashmere, cotton silk, mohair and bamboo that are sourced from reliable vendors and dyed with azo-free dyes using creative hand dyeing techniques. They support their employees with a percentage of profits providing health care and education for producers and the local community.

Care Instructions and Material Compositions Dip Dye Mohair - Composition: 49% Kid Mohair, 32% Wool, 19% Polyamide. Machine wash at 30 degrees or below and dry flat. Yak Merino - Composition: 25% yak wool, 75% merino wool. Handwash or Machine wash at 30 degrees or below and dry flat.


Our felted bags and purses are handmade on the roof of our leather producer’s factory at Nepal Leprosy Trust (NLT). The women lay the coloured raw wool fibres in the specified colour combinations, felt together with water and soap, and leave the pieces to individually dry in the sun on the roof. Production can be tricky during the July/ August monsoon season, so we have to manage our orders around this! We introduced this range to help sustain the employment of the three women in the NLT felting unit, as they were not getting enough orders. The bags are stitched together in the NLT factory, complete with lining and faux leather handles. The purses are moulded to size and the women handstitch the zip and lining inside for each piece. We always get asked about using these products in the Autumn/Winter season – though we don’t advise using them in a British downpour, we have updated the ISTA bag and LILA purse with matt waterproof lining this year.


Our felt slipper range is produced just outside of Kathmandu, within a fantastic new cooperative, that employ mainly local women to produce the slippers on site. The suede leather soles are carefully machine stitched with a post-sewing machine and printed with the size/brand label. All sizes are consistent and accurate in size as they have invested in European wooden foot ‘lasts’ which are used to mould each felt slipper on and reused time and time again. Small / EU 37 / UK 4 - Medium / EU 39 / UK 6 Large / EU 41 / UK 8 - XLarge / EU 43 / UK 10 We have tried to provide a good size range by stocking alternate shoe sizes. For customers between sizes, we usually suggest trying the larger size for comfort as they are cosy with a pair of socks on too! From this year, we have introduced an X Large size, as we have had many requests from men who wish to purchase these unisex slippers. Unfortunately, EU 43 is the largest size that can be made at the moment, so we are unable to cater for sizes larger than this. Please note these slippers are not machine washable as it will ruin the leather suede sole attached. They should be spot cleaned with a damp cloth.

LEATHERWORK The stitching unit run by the Nepal Leprosy Trust (NLT) in Kathmandu, produces some of our leather and faux leather ranges in house. They provide marginalized individuals with work opportunities under fair trade work guidelines, empowering them to provide for their families through employment but also giving medical support and education allowances to their children. Some of the producers have physical disabilities or have experienced some form of disability within their family. AURA QUE founder, Laura Queening has worked with NLT over the last nine years to improve the factory’s facilities, purchasing new equipment, as well as helping to improve efficiency, leather craftsmanship and capacity. There are 19 people currently working within the NLT factory, some of whom have had leprosy or someone in their family has been affected; many have worked there for over 20 years. After the earthquake in 2015, we were able to help these individuals at NLT in the aftermath, giving them each a substantial money gift to help with house repairs and living costs.

From her studio in London, Laura designs each product and does the majority of the pattern cutting, then she works collaboratively in Nepal with NLT and other sample makers to overcome any technical issues in the correct materials. For some of our classic leather range, we also work with a family business who runs a small leather craft workshop, providing stable income and calm work environment for employees as well as training in leather work and traditional skills.

For our leather bags and handles, we cannot compromise on quality so buy leather in bulk from Calcutta and it is road-freighted to Kathmandu across the border from India. The tannery complies with European Standards for leather production and recycles chemicals within the process due to the water treatment plant onsite. Some of our brass metal fittings are handmade to order by a small Nepalese family business. The molten brass is poured into the mould, set and then each piece is individually filed and smoothed. Other antique brass fittings that are unable to be made this way are bought locally from the market in Kathmandu. We have recently developed a range of faux leather products for our vegan customers. This material is sourced in bulk from the local market in Kathmandu, and we handpick the best quality colour options for our range.

Leather Care Instructions Cleaning leather can be difficult - a gentle option is to use a moisturising soap and a colourless damp cloth and work the soap into a lather on the cloth. Dab this onto the leather gently without putting too much water on the leather. Wipe away the lather with a fresh damp cloth. Don’t rinse the leather in water, just use the fresh damp cloth to dab off the soap. Dry completely and use a leather conditioner to finish. It can be difficult to get stains out of leather, so if possible use pre-care products to protect the leather, and only use cleaning methods if completely necessary. The leather does naturally soften and darken slightly in colour when used over time. We suggest that you avoid dark coloured liquids and the biro pen to avoid stains! You can also get advice from your local dry cleaning service for any possible cleaning options. Please note any cotton or felt bags with leather/faux leather handles attached, are not machine washable.

COTTON STITCHING PRODUCTION We work with a fair-trade collective in Nepal that mainly works with female producers, and also employs and trains some deaf people, with staff learning sign language to communicate with them. Established with financial support from UNICEF, this collective is dedicated to promote traditional Nepalese craft skills as well as applying modern techniques in order to generate income for under privileged craft producers.

Please handwash all items to ensure minimal damage to the zips and any metal fittings on these items. Items with leather or faux leather handles/components cannot be washed as it will damage these materials. Best to spot clean with a damp cloth.

HANDWOVEN FABRICS AND SCARVES We work with various small women’s projects and producer groups in Nepal who produce a variety of fabrics for us – we try to use handwoven fabrics where possible to help provide income from handmade processes. The shyama and heavy cotton fabrics are handwoven by a small women’s project in Bhaktapur, where local women work flexible hours around their family commitments. We have also worked with Dhaka fabric, a traditional Nepalese fabric used for the male Nepali topi hats, which is handmade in colourful geometric designs which is a labour intensive process.

The Hansilo and Pema Scarves can be machine washed at 30 degrees C or below. For the fine wool scarves, we advise light handwashing at low temperature due to the delicate handknit of the product.


The banana yarn fibre is 100% natural and produced sustainably from the pruned excess outer layers of the Banana tree after each fruit harvest in South Nepal. The outer fibre is beaten into a pull, strained to remove excess liquid, dried and then washed several times to get a purer color. The fibre is then spun into yarn for our Pema scarves. This process creates a product from the wastage from the banana crop, providing an extra income for Nepali farmers in rural areas.


All paper products, including swing tags, gift bags and notebooks are made from the traditional Nepalese handmade Lokta paper, known for its durability and special texture. Grown from trees at 2000m in the Himalaya, only the outer Lokta bark is collected to ensure the preservation of the trees. Produced by a traditional technique, the bark is boiled and the soft pulp spread evenly in a wooden frame in water, and finally sun dried.

ETHICAL POLICY AURA QUE strives to conduct business to the highest ethical and environmental standards, with designer Laura Queening working directly and closely with manufacturers that share the same ethos. We are always finding ways to improve and find our most ethical supply chain, but we are working towards our goal by creating strong relationships with suppliers and manufacturers - to demonstrate that ethical collaborations can be successful - and by making the most of the challenges and adventures along the way. Working in developing countries such as Nepal is always challenging but is made all the better by the warm friendly people within the organizations that we collaborate with. It is important for us to continue to provide these small producer groups and handicraft units with work to empower the people who work these as well as help the charities and projects affiliated with these organizations. Our main aim to produce beautiful handcrafted timeless fashion and lifestyle products, to promote handmade artisanal processes that can be lovingly used each season by our customers.

WORKING WITH FAIR TRADE PRINCIPLES AURA QUE works closely with small producer groups that are World Fair Trade Organization (WFTO) members to ensure healthy and safe work environments and payment of living wages. We also encourage trade for small family businesses and charity handicraft units, aiming to slowly build long term relationships with these suppliers, under the same fair principles. AURA QUE aims to make a difference to underprivileged communities by investing in equipment, encouraging repeat orders and developing the skills of the producers. AURA QUE works closely with small producer groups that are World Fair Trade Organization (WFTO) members to ensure healthy and safe work environments and payment of living wages. We also encourage trade for small family businesses and charity handicraft units, aiming to slowly build long term relationships with these suppliers, under the same fair principles. AURA QUE aims to make a difference to underprivileged communities by investing in equipment, encouraging repeat orders and developing the skills of the producers.

The 10 Principles of Fair Trade 1. Creating Opportunities for Economically Disadvantaged Producers 2. Transparency and Accountability 3. Fair Trading Practices 4. Payment of a Fair Price 5. Ensuring no Child Labour and Forced Labour 6. Commitment to Non Discrimination, Gender Equity and Freedom of Association 7. Ensuring Good Working Conditions 8. Providing Capacity Building 9. Promoting Fair Trade 10. Respect for the Environment

AURA QUE is proud to be a member of BAFTS The British Association of Fair Trade Shops and Suppliers, and works with WFTO members in Nepal.

MINIMISING ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACT Reducing Carbon Footprint: Although AURA QUE currently uses airfreight to transport products to the UK, we aim to carbon offset all air miles in order to reduce the carbon footprint of the company. We will look at continuing and improving this procedure as the company grows. There is minimal machinery used in the manufacture of AURA QUE products, with most of the sewing machines in Nepal relying on motion foot pedals without using energy supplies. Recycling: We try to reduce all wastage by reusing and recycling as much as possible, both in the studio and the workshops. Our preferred method of communication is email, but where necessary, all paper correspondence is printed onto recycled FSC certified paper. Use of Materials: Most of the materials used in AURA QUE products are sourced locally, not only to promote traditional skills but also to reduce the transport of materials to manufacture. We are constantly reviewing and refining our supply chain, finding the most ethical solution without compromising on quality and the brand aesthetic.

OTHER SUPPORT AURA QUE works with various charities within Nepal, and is particularly involved with the Nepal Leprosy Trust (NLT). NLT oversees its own leather production unit based in Kathmandu as well as running the Lalguardh Leprosy Hospital in Janakhpur, South Nepal. Officially opening in 1996, the hospital has gone from strength to strength and now provides treatment for 30,000 patients every year, with those affected by leprosy receiving all treatment free of charge.

Leprosy is a disease caused by a bacterial infection that can be treated with antibiotics. In many cases a complication of the infection is damage to some nerves. If this is not recognised quickly the nerve damage leaves the patient with life-long physical disabilities after the infection is cured. People disabled by leprosy are often stigmatised and denied basic human rights. Educational programs help to combat the stigma of leprosy and charities, such as NLT, help to provide work and support to these individuals, who ma have been shunned by their families and communities due to their disabilities.

AURA QUE founder, Laura Queening has visited Lalguardh Leprosy Hospital to see NLT in action. The NLT runs several programs through the hospital, including the Social Economic Rehabilitation Programme, which offers support not only for leprosy patients but other marginalized people in the Terai communities. NLT’s Community Development Department provides small business loans for individuals to earn an income for themselves and their family. They also establish self-help groups within communities to provide support.

BACKGROUND & LONDON STUDIO AURA QUE was founded by Laura Queening (from which the AURA QUE name was taken – pronounced ‘AURA Q’) after completing her First Class Honours fashion degree and winning a Creative Seed bursary from London College of Fashion. With the enthusiasm of a new graduate and naturally gravitating towards Nepal after her previous travel experiences teaching English in rural Nepal as a teenager, she sourced and worked with various charity handicraft units and WFTO producer groups in Kathmandu, to bring local materials and designs to western markets. Having lived in Nepal for several years, Laura Queening now lives in South London, UK and visits Kathmandu for a few months every year to source new materials, sample new designs, maintain quality control and catch up with old friends!

Our AURA QUE studio is based in Peckham, South London in the Copeland Park/Bussey Building creative hub, which is our base for all admin, sales and design work. Our stock is stored with a warehousing unit outside of London, who deal with all picking and packing of wholesale and retail orders. Designer Laura Queening has also worked with Oxfam on her own range of upcycled handbags made from recycled denim, leather jackets and fabric offcuts, such as Harris Tweed and Liberty print curtains, which were styled and made in London. She has also been invited to work on private labelling projects for other brands, combining her ethical beliefs with her creative and business skills. Over the last few years, Laura has also worked with the Kaffe Fassett Studio in North London, improving logistics, managing design development and developing their archive inventory. Around such inspiring colour and design creativity encouraged Laura to collaborate with Kaffe on a capsule range for AURA QUE, launching soon, with many more exciting products to expand this range!

For more information, please contact: Laura Queening e: t: +44 (0) 7789514266 Unit BGM, Copeland Park/Bussey Building, 133 Copeland Road, London SE153SN