28 Aug 2011

My Passport to Style | Meets Nadia The Founder Of Luxury Label Danaqa

Nadia at Danaqa-Kensington & Chelsea Chronicle

Q1Sharon-Hi Amanda, what inspired you to set up Danaqa?

A-Nadia- Well it was an interesting combination of things. Firstly my husband David and I both work in the field of international development-him in development finance and me in agricultural research and development. This has meant two major things in our lives- one that we have had the privilege of living and working in wonderful developing countries around the world, and secondly that we have had direct exposure to development issues and opportunities in those countries.

 As a result I always came back from these trips with lots of unusual and beautiful jewellery, textiles, wooden items, things for the home and things for me and for gifts. Our Christmas presents for family and friends were always very different and unexpected.

The culmination of the idea behind Danaqa was the planning of our wedding.. We found lovely colourful hand loomed shirts for the men and raw silk material for the bridesmaids in Sri Lanka. Little give away baskets in Ethiopia.

And from this the precursor to Danaqa was born—what we coined as our theme- ‘Development Chic’!

We figured from all of this that there was a gap in the market in Europe for high end beautiful goods from these countries, especially countries underrepresented, under exposed, or with negative reputations in Europe.


Q2Sharon- I'm dying to ask why did you decide to choose Danaqa as your company name?

A-Nadia-This is a really great question. At that time we were living in Ethiopia and they have a beautiful world which gets used to describe things, people, concepts, thoughts, moods or anything as being beautiful, pretty, lovely, etc—and that is ‘konjo’. We initially wanted to use this term—but again it was not suitable for a number of reasons.

 A shortlist of words were then shared with people interested and involved in the setting up of the business and a pole was taken.

Emerging from whole process was ‘Danaqa’. As a derivative of the Amharic (Ethiopian language) word ‘dinknesh’ which was the name given to Lucy- the prehistoric skeleton found in Ethiopia to denote their wonder and surprise at this amazing find, ‘Danaqa’ also provides the sense of being pleasantly surprised.

A beautiful word when written down, this word also encapsulated what we wanted to achieve—for people to find beautiful items for what they are, but to be pleasantly surprised about their origins, context and deeper meanings.

Q3Sharon-. How does the ethical nature of your business benefit the women you commission to produce the pieces you stock from third world countries such as Nepal?

A-Nadia-Firstly, we don’t exactly commission pieces from our suppliers. Danaqa is about recognising and supporting the whole value chain in countries for our products. This means respecting and empowering the beautiful design processes that happen there, not just using suppliers as producers. We search for items which are beautiful and that we think would be attractive in Europe given the current seasons, trends and desires of the market—and often supply our groups with style sheets and magazine clippings to expose them to what people like in Europe at particular times of the year. But essentially we honour their design as well as their production skills.

As for how our ethical business benefits women, we work with small women’s groups to enable them to lead enterprises in our source countries and equip them with the business skills needed to sustain their endeavours.

As an ethical business we also make use of fair trade principles. We pay a fair price, try as much as possible to ensure that the working conditions are good, we pay half or more of the money for the order up front so that suppliers don’t have to take loans out for materials or labour, and we don’t do once off buys—thus giving them some longer term security.

As an ethical business, we also support the whole value chain in countries so as to keep the majority of money in those countries to benefit people. We don’t just import raw materials for production here, instead we buy finished products. We also buy packaging and get services from those countries as well.

Q4Sharon - It's great that you back up your offer with business advice and support for women in third world countries. Have you noticed any changes in consumers attitudes to purchasing ethical fashions and accessories?

A-Nadia-One thing is that we get a lot of repeat customers. People come in and are interested and come back again and again to look some more, hear more about the products and then eventually buy. People are becoming more aware of their own consumption patterns both due to internal financial issues such as the rescission in the UK but also because of awareness off what is happening around the world. We do see some sceptics who see the products and then see the prices and feel that they are too high. But many once they hear about how items are handmade over weeks of skilled labour, using high end materials such as silk, leather, and silver then have a better grasp of the value.

Another thing that strikes many of our customers is the uniqueness of the items they can purchase this way. Rather than multiple, exactly the same items that can be made from large factories, our items are made by small groups so are in small numbers and often are never the same either. We can see this starting to appeal to consumers more and more.

Kitenge cloth bag in lips and lipstick print made in Rwanda

Q5Sharon-.What’s been your greatest challenge since setting up?

A-Nadia-Well as a small start-up there are many challenges and the nature of our business brings many challenges too.

While a challenge, it is also exciting, but working with a wide range of small suppliers in 5 different, developing countries does bring a fair share of issues to deal with. Scale, quality, consistency and chic design are key things we have to always watch for and work closely with our suppliers to achieve. While beautiful, it is hard to sell, especially online, 20 necklaces all with completely different colours and designs, for example.

Dealing with shipping, customs and delivery on both sides can present challenges too.

In the UK, setting up a business is something that has been supported by the government in words, but in practice it is quite a complicated process. Meandering through all the rules, regulations, not to mention taxes and costs—could easily put off people, especially when you are a small, different business such as ours.

Then finally—trying to push this niche market and our concept through marketing when we operate on such a small scale right now can be challenging. How to compete with the big high street shops and department stores in terms of visibility is something we are trying to be creative about, but we still need for the public to know about us.

Q6Sharon- What’s your philosophy on business?

A-Nadia-I am quite new to business myself so have been learning a lot along the way.

For me business needs to make sense. You need to have a good concept, approach and model to keep guiding you, as there are many forks and speedbumps in the road. My husband and I spent a long time developing a business plan and strategy and checking it with others—to make sure we had something good to guide us along the way.

Key to being an ethical retail business is remembering that as nice as products and the stories behind them are—this does not make them sell. They need to match the market demand, they need to be priced right and they need to be marketed. We cannot achieve our good aims if things do not sell—so we need to make sure we are acting like a business.

But businesses need to be adaptable and flexible and be able to change and match what is happening around them—can’t just be stuck in your ways.

Q7Sharon- Great advice! What makes you smile?

A-Nadia-In general—people make me smile. I am a people person and get my energy from people. When people are happy, satisfied, fulfilled and enjoying themselves—it makes me smile too.

Q8Sharon- Got to ask, do you have a favourite accessory in this seasons collection, you know mines the goats skin bag and the Nepalese urn!

Ostrich Eggshell necklace made in Botswana

Wow—so hard to choose a favourite as I Love EVERYTHING we have. But if pushed I would say:

• The bright coloured ‘kitenge’ cloth covered leather day to night bags from Rwanda. They are so fun and individual (and make me smile too), plus can be worn in so many different ways for the day and night—a key for me as I am often out for the whole day and night, especially on weekends.

• The ostrich eggshell necklaces and earrings made in Botswana. These are so different. They are large and chunky but still light to wear. They are an amazing natural material, made with skill and precision over weeks of cutting out the little beads from the eggs…and are stunning to wear!

• And for the home… I would say I love our collection of cushion covers from Ethiopia. Made from a silk and cotton mix—they are so soft and perfect for cuddling up with in the evenings—but look beautiful and natural.

 Q9Sharon- What gives you the most satisfaction and what’s been your proudest moment?

A-Nadia-I guess one of the proudest moments was the day we opened the doors to our shop with beautiful ethical stock and our beautiful sign outside. It made our whole dream become a reality.

My satisfaction comes from two things:

Firstly- when someone comes in and falls in love with a product and buys it and looks so happy.

Secondly-when we relay feedback to our suppliers about the business, how products are selling and what people are saying about them. To see or hear their sense of pride of being recognised as skilled craftsmen and business people in their own right gives me such a warm glow.

Q10Sharon- If you could give one piece of advice to women hoping to start up a ethical business what would it be?

A-Nadia-Make sure you believe in what you are doing. For me, I believe in the beauty, quality and chic aspect of our range and in our business model we have designed. When we have days with bad sales or someone coming in and saying something negative about our shop—I always go back into my heart and remember why I am doing this, who I am doing this for and what I can achieve and it keeps me going. You need that belief, that passion, that rock—because it isn’t always easy.

Q11Sharon- Brilliant advice! What do you think is our biggest strength as women?

A-Nadia-Well I believe as a woman my strengths, many shared with other women, are the strong connection between the emotional and rational side. While I can develop a business and do all the necessary practical things—I always bring my passion, my belief and my emotions into as well. Some may say it is our downfall, but I believe it is what makes us more resilient, creative and outstanding.

This emotional side is also very key in ethical business. It gives us the heart to always remember the ethical side—when the business side demands so much attention and can often be overpowering. The emotional side comes in strongly in choosing products, working with the suppliers and telling the stories too.

I guess to be a bit stereotypical, I do also believe that women are great multi-taskers—and in this type of business it sure is necessary.

Q12Sharon- Where would you like the company to be in five years time?

A-Nadia-I would like Danaqa World Chic to be a recognised brand within the ethical fashion world as well as just the fashion world too. I would like to see the company as a frontrunner in ethical fashion, bringing new ideas and innovation as to how we can combine commercial fashion with achieving good contributions to the world around us.

I hope to see us with an expanded network of shops as well as being featured in other larger retail spaces.

I see our company working side by side a successful foundation which uses some of the profits to give back to the countries we source from in even more ways through business training, support to preservation of crafts and skills, and promoting trade.

Hope you gals, have enjoyed finding out more about luxury ethical label Danaqa, you can kind find their shop in Notting Hill London or online here at Danaqa.com   

Adaptable Kitenge cloth bags made in Rwanda

goats skin Kitenge bag made in Rwanda 

My Passport to Style | Meets Rosie Founder Of Ethical Company Preeti Design

 Hi Rosie, I'm really excited to have Preeti Design featured here on My Passport to Style today, as you work with such skilled artisans who use such beautiful colours and prints in your range and a big thanks for offering such a lovely giveaway of one of your sets of handmade bangles.The details of which are at the bottom of this interview with Rosie 

Sharon Q1- What inspired you to set up Preeti Design?

Rosie A- India! I went to Rajasthan with my sister on holiday and fell in love with the country. I had to go back and do something that meant I could spend lots of time living there and working with it’s fantastic people.

Rajputi Bags

Sharon Q2- How does the ethical nature of your business benefit the women in Asia that you commission to produce the bags, clothing bags and bangles you stock?

Rosie A-They work in their own homes under their own time. Because they all have a family and young children, going to work outside of their home is not possible. I provide an income for them that they otherwise wouldn’t be able to have. They take great pride in their work and produce fantastic products, because their standard is so high I am always really impressed and excited by how they replicate my designs and ideas, seeing their hard work get this reaction is a real boost for them and gives them the confidence that women in India often don’t have.

Sharon Q3- In the time that Preeti Design has been running have you noticed any changes in consumers attitudes to purchasing ethical fashions and accessories?

Rosie A- Buying an ethically made product has become far more on trend. People definitely care more about how things are made and where they came from. Using recycled materials is quirky and people love seeing a fabric reinvented and used for a completely different purpose. My Borie bag is an example of this and is hugely popular.

Sharon Q4- What's been your greatest challenge since setting up?

Rosie A- Working in a country where you don’t speak the language was a challenge and meant that I had to learn some basic Hindi fast!

Sharon Q5- What's your philosophy on business?

Rosie A-For every business it is essential to have a great product and commitment behind it. For small independents such as Preeti Design we can’t forget the importance of PR and marketing to get our brand noticed. Personally I have found the blogging community a great source of support in this area.

Sharon Q6- What makes you smile?

Rosie A-Colour! In any shape or form, this is why I have such a passion for India, women wouldn’t dream of stepping out of the house in beige!

Sharon Q7- That's so true! Colour is such a big part of Asian style! Would you do anything differently?

Rosie A- My first collection included only one design of 11 colour ways but I didn’t have the confidence to go further with my ideas. With the success of the first range I wish that I had pursued a few more of my initial designs from the start.

Sharon Q8- Got to ask, do you have a favourite bag from your collection?

Rosie A- I love all the bags and can’t really choose, but my favourite products from the new range are the one of a kind silk necklaces, they are each plated from antique sari silk bearing beautiful hand painted silver pendants.

Sharon Q9-That sounds like a really special piece, I really like your brightly coloured garment bags, I can imagine opening my wardrobe, in the morning and the thrill of catching a glimpse of saffron yellow and feeling inspired to get ready whatever the weather outside! What gives you the most satisfaction and what's been your proudest moment?

Henna Garment bag, available in other colours

Rosie A-I love working with the women in India and going from the prototype to the finished product with such amazing people is massively rewarding. My proudest moment was putting my fab website up online and seeing the sales rolling in.

Sharon Q10- If you could give one piece of advice to any other women hoping to start up an ethical business what would it be?

Rosie A- It takes time, have patience and commitment and it will work.

Sharon Q11- What do you think is our biggest strength as women?

Rosie A-Our eye for detail and our dedication to the things we love.

Sharon Q12- Where would you like the company to be in five years time?

Rosie A- Still in its colourful state and I would love to be selling to the department stores.
If you would like to win this beautiful set of handmade lakshmi bangles from Preeti Design made from silk and handmade glass in blue and red then simply follow here if you don't already with friends connect or blogger.


 Tweet or FB about the Preeti Design bangle giveaway on http://www.mypassporttostyle.blogspot.com/  follow Preeti on Face Book here OR on Twitter here and leave us a comment here to let us know.We would love to know what you think about Pretti Design as an ethical buisness or just what you like about their range, remember to leave your email, the winner will be selected at the end of the week and notified.  

Remember to check in here tomorow if you have a minuite to find out more about ethical buisness woman Amanda and exciting luxury label Danaqa you won't be disappointed!  

27 Aug 2011

My Passport To Style | Meets Amanda Founder Of Isossy Childrens Wear Label

 Hi Amanda, I'm really excited to have Isossy featured here on My Passport to Style today, as you use such beautiful colours and prints in your designs and your clothing offers a unique fun and stylish alternative in children's wear

Sharon-Q1 - What inspired you to set up the Isossy children's wear label?

Amanda- A-Firstly, I really love your questions. Isossy Children was born when my son was little, over 16 years ago. I set-up a company called Culture Kidz with the aid of a PYBT loan and that really set the tone for Isossy Children. This time around, I literally woke up on a Sunday morning with the fire and motivation to start it again. It was a very similar premise of contemporising African fabrics with Western styling to create wider appeal and open the idea of global and cross-cultural dressing for children.

Sharon- Q2- . Amanda you live in the UK and yet your designs have a global influence why is this?

Amanda-A-The million dollar question. My background is global. I was fortunate to be raised in different countries and enjoy the benefits that travel and cultural experience affords one. It broadened my mind, and influenced my designs. I still love to travel.

Sharon-Q3-.I'm very impressed you have managed to keep production in the UK where you design your collection, why is it so important for you to keep production here in the UK?

Amanda-A-I really believe in creating jobs and industry for the people who live and work in the UK and the US and hopefully soon Africa. Localized industry is pretty much non-existent for many reasons and the economy of scale makes keeping production in the UK very difficult, but there are a lot of people out there who can work from home and produce beautiful garments.

Sharon-Q4-It's really inspiring that your helping to revive the cottage industry here in the Uk and create a sustainable source of income for women with the skills needed!What's been your greatest challenge since setting up?

Amanda-A-Getting the name out there. I think globally so I want to conquer the world, but it doesn't quite work like that. It takes time and money to build a label's profile.

Sharon-Q5- What's your philosophy on business?

Amanda-A- If it feels good, do it.

Sharon-Q6- What makes you smile?

Amanda-A-Little people always make me smile actually. I love children

Sharon-Q7- Me too! Would you do anything differently?

Amanda-A-Remember when I said, if it feels good do it? Invert that and you can plan strategically which is always beneficial in business.

Sharon-Q8- Got to ask, do you have a favourite piece in this seasons collection and if so why?

Amanda-A-I love the Evita dresses. I've really become fascinated by navy blue. I'm so tempted to make one for myself and my sister. I love classic dresses and it seems like this season has caught up with the Isossy Classic Collection.

Sharon-Q9- Being part asian, navy really works for the yellow tones in my skin, so I'm a huge fan. What gives you the most satisfaction and what's been your proudest moment?

Amanda-A-I just love seeing my creations come to life. It's an addictive thing really and my proudest moment with Isossy Children has been getting the collection into Fenwick, Newcastle. That feels good. We were blessed

Sharon-Q10-I love your passion, what an achievement being selected for Fenwicks! If you could give one piece of advice to women hoping to start up an ethical business what would it be?

Amanda-A-Plan, strategise, KNOW YOUR FIGURES, be business minded and get on with it.

Sharon-Thanks for sharing your knowledge and vision of Isossy with us here on My Passport to Style Amanda.

To see more of Amandas label, Isossy visit miniwardrobe.com  or isossychildren.com  

Don't forget we have another great label featuring here tomorow, Preeti Design with a gorgeous giveaway for you to enter.

26 Aug 2011

Meet Four Amazing Women And Their Fashion Related Buisness Starting Monday 29th Of August Here!

Hi Gals, how are you doing today? Some of you may know a woman who has been hugely inspirational in your life or even helped you achieve your goals, for me that someone who inspires me is Mary Portas which will be pretty evident to those of you who read my recent ravings on her latest project the launching of her new boutique at selfridges. She know how to transforn the face of fashion brands and reach out to woman in the process.

 In this tough climate where more and more women are turning to self employment to transform their lives, I wanted to share some really interesting buisness models in the  fashion industry with you over the coming week. All of which have one thing in common they are inspirational in their commitment to empower other women and families to prosper as well a selling great products.

 Apart from the featured interviews from jewellery company Stella & Dot, lifestyle brand Danqua, childrens wear brand Issossy and independent handbag company Preeti Designs  and finding out more about how each woman featured has helped create a sustainable buisness model that helps generate wealth and wellbeing for other women in the world, there will also be opportunity to discover how gorgeous their designs are by winning giveaways on offer. So please keep checking back to read the posts each day if you have a moment and let us know your thoughts on the buisness's featured. 

If you want to follow the series on the four featured women and their fashion buisesses here on My Passport to Style begining Monday 29th, here is the lineup for you - Leigh -Ann of global jewellery brand Stella & Dot, Amanda of unique childrens label Isossy, Nadia of global lifestyle and accessory brand Danaqa and Rosie of independent bag company Preeti Designs.   


25 Aug 2011

Who Needs Words When You Can Let Your Ears Do The Talking!

Hi Gals, todays post was inspired by this f two foxes I recently bought from the artist Josie Portillo, the animal kingdom is all over the runway this A/W 2011 and I don't just mean the ever popular leopard or a bit of faux fur. With animal wildlife featuring big in Mulberrys A/W 2011 campaign not mention dogs being the sweater motif of choice and snakes accessories being the go to power piece to wear for the evening.Why are women drawn to buying into animal designs and why are designers creating them? The answer possibly lies in Victorian history when giving symbolic meaning to animal jewellery became very popular and was used as a subtle way of communicating a message either by the wearer or the giver of the object. 

The snake represented eternity, dogs fidelity, flys would you believe humilty? I don't have a comprensive list but you get the idea, I thought it might be fun to come up with some meaning of my own.

lady birds could signify a houseproud mum

The ram could represent a headstrong buisness women

    These bird earrings could represent the message for your ears only!

The rabbit could be symbolic of either '' eating light, so don't try to tempt me with chocolate cake!' or fertility.

The beautiful stag has to stand for nobility, did you come up with any ideas of your own?

All the beautiful jewelley featured here came from -

24 Aug 2011

My Passport to Style | Alphabet Chic P Is For .....

p S is for pretty bag made from soft Silky sari fabric, Swinging on your shoulder as you skip joyfully to your favourite place!

 Gals meet preetidesign.com watch this space for a giveaway and to find out more about their designs.  

20 Aug 2011

My Passport to Style Visits Blackwell | Stunning Inspiration For Budding Designers

I recently visited this breathtakingly beautiful house at Blackwell in Cumbria, I'm surprised Viviene Westwood with her love of heritage design as inspiration for her clothing label has not been all over it like a rash with her sketch pad and pen!Firstly there are the drain pipes yes you heard me correctly, the drain pipes are literally works of art! See this beauty below.

Blackwell house, interiors and furnishings down to the piano, were designed by Baillie Scott in 1900 as a holiday retreat for wealthy Manchester brewer Edward Holt at the turn of the centuary; when the Arts and Craft movement had taken hold in Britain in reaction to the need to return to the simplicty and harmony of handcrafted design and turn away from the grind of the industrial. It seems really relevant to serve up this sumptious slice of British heritage today as I believe fashion and design has come full circle and we are back to both needing and wanting better crafted clothing, forever pieces and furnishings in our home that we can really connect with, enjoy and cherish.





19 Aug 2011

My Passport to Style | Celebrating The Anniversay Of My Wedding

Hi Gals, inspired by my wedding anniversay today! This is Lady like chic with a capital L! From the film W.E directed by Madonna, the costumes alone would make viewing worth while! Dress gloves are a must, as is lavender water and a great corset, but if your struggling to get your hand on these a good tweed pencil skirt is a great place to start, see Thomas Pink.
Now I'm off for fun and frolicks with my lovely husband!

 credits - Vanity Fair

17 Aug 2011

Meet The Latest Vintage Vamps | Cloth Magpie And Truly Sopel

For all you new vintage fans out there here are two scrummy unique British labels to feast on that will bring a big splash of sunshine to your wardrobes, that I'm bursting to introduce you to. But first for those of you that are a bit puzzled with the term 'new vintage', let me explain, new vintage is basically a new take on an original vintage design or style, that has been recreated using new fabric. Very often companies still opt for reproduced vintage prints or reclaimed vintage fabric that are still in mint condition. The benefits are pretty obvious, all the charm of vintage with none of the wear. You may also have the luxury of being able to choose one design in several prints or different colour ways, as was the rigour in days past, when styles of women's clothing were much more restricted a unique pattern of fabric was essential to helping you stand out amongst a crowd of wasp waisted women.


Cloth Magpie the British handbag label created by designer Sam Cross in Cambridge born out of her love for vintage fabrics, offers three distinct retro style handbag shapes in a wide variety of vintage prints, beautifully finished with a bright contrasting lining. But Magpie Cloth has gone that little bit further than most vintage etailers to spoil all you vintage lovers out there; simply register your newly purchased handbag on the Magpie site and you can claim free matching key ring, don't you just love that! Seeing as they are holding a fantastic sale right now AND all the current Cloth Magpie designs work with the strong trend for 60's and 70's this A/W 11 it will be tough to choose...

Next up on my vintage hotties hit list, is the lovely Truly Sopel from Somerset, inspired by the dresses she used to create as a little girl for her dollies and a wish to recapture the pretty innocence she remembers, she launched a fun, frivolous range of underwear showcased here today at Truly Knickers off the back of her very successful vintage clothing line at Truly Sopel, I think the sunshine yellow tweed coat is adorable. I'm loving the sheer versatility of Truly's vintage inspired knickers sets, in a range of the cutest fabric, you simply pop on a set in the morning teaming the top with a pair of your favourite jeans and if you get a little too hot and bothered just slip your jeans off and hey presto you're a chic 50s pin up girl ready to sun bathe or cool down, equally these would make a great set of stylish PJ. Find your perfect match here.