So, finally and because we have the say, « now better than never », I am very excited to present you this article, presenting the transcript of the interview with Kathrin, the founder of Battiayo.
Have a good reading
What was/was your inspiration(s) while starting Battiayo?
It is still surprising to me up to this point that I ended up working in the handicraft sector and designing products. Battiayo was not planned, it happened naturally and evolved.
It all started, at the beginning of 2015, with a research project which dove into economic women empowerment in the handicraft sector of Nepal. It quickly depicted that a lot of the programs would not be financially sustainable (financially independent from a grant or donation money) the way the business models were set up. Underlying this main issue is a myriad of complex issues. For example, product prices were set far too cheap to be financially viable. This meant further reliance upon donations and/or grants and skewing competition (from unrealistic low prices) in the sector. In addition, the products had a multitude of quality inconsistencies. Individuals involved in the women’s empowerment programs often had financial illiteracy, further jeopardising the financial viability. Finally, the production of products was not based on market demands. They were often based on what other organisations were already producing and attempting to undercut competitor prices.
It is a stretch, in our opinion, to call an economic women empowerment program “successful” if it continues to necessitate grants or donations.
During this period, I developed a desire to do something about it, so I reached out to friends abroad. I wanted to create with a Dominican friend (a successful fashion designer) and a German friend (a talented graphic designer). We envisioned a project together which involved one specific women empowerment group and which should center around the handicraft skills. As plans are plans and things work differently in life, I found myself on 3 different projects with each of them.
The projects with both of my friends did not work out, as we had some typical Nepal problems of not getting the exact supplies and colour shades we wanted or just the simple challenge of quality inconsistencies. So, the only project which survived, and continued so that the women could keep on earning money was Battiayo. And here we are some years later… slowly and steadily evolving.
Your collection refers a lot to the « ethnic Dhaka weaves », do you think you have been fallen in love with this style of fabric?
I am generally in love with products that are handmade by talented and skilled artisans and I think it is important to keep these traditions and skills alive as part of cultural heritage. I am always amazed at how skilled the women are we are working with.
Among your collection, which item is your favourite, and why?
It really depends on my mood and the day. The Red Sun & Moon Dhaka Backpack with white canvas, which was basically the first backpack we ever produced, is still one of my favourite items. This backpack was supposed to be just a test and if you see me running around with it, you will see that it does not have a Battiayo label and some parts are not perfect. It was our sample piece and I love it, and maybe even more because it was the first backpack we did! People have told me, you are representing Battiayo, you should not wear a sample piece. I understand what they are saying and for marketing reasons it would be better. But for me as a person, I believe in principles like ‘use what you already have’ and ‘make things last’, and I am as happy with our first sample piece as I would be with a new one. By the way, this backpack turned out to be super popular with our customers in Europe.
My most worn item is most probably the big golden Homage to Peti necklace. I love it because I can wear them with completely different styles, and it is always a beautiful addition to my outfits. If I have a fancier event to go to, I do love the Fox Clutch, such a beauty.
Can you name one design that has been created « out of the surprise » or came out as you never expected? If so, which one and tell us more about this story
There is one product, which came out of having a lot of time at home and cleaning out during the lockdown. As we have not launched it, I will not take the surprise away but we will happily tell you the story of it at another point
Finish the sentences :
– I started « Battiayo » with a wish to create a sustainable income source especially for women and celebrate the wonderful handicraft skills in a modern context.
– My typical day looks like a box of surprises. Every day is different and something unexpected is always around the corner waiting for me. How great is that!
– Right now, I am loving every second I can be outside and not being completely locked in.
– I am happiest when I am on my mountain bike in the hills or with people I love around me.
– I am inspired by nature, activists, things I read, and the wish for a world with equal rights for everybody.
– I would advise my younger self to play more and work less.
For more information and getting for yourself a wonderful dhaka accessory,
find their website and follow them on their social media pages!