On our second day in Nepal we visited the Studio JUX factory in Kathmandu. We started our business about the same time as Jitske en Carlien (the ladies behind this Amsterdam based True Fashion label) and have been friends ever since, so we heard many interesting stories about running a business in Nepal. That’s why we were so inspired to visit the factory ourselves.
When Jitske (designer and founder of Studio JUX) set up the Studio JUX factory she and her boyfriend Philippe (a Belgium guy who grew up in Kathmandu and now the logistics manager of Studio JUX) lived in Kathmandu. Jitske used to manage the factory herself until they moved back to Amsterdam a few years ago – since then the factory is under Nepali management.
The second the taxi dropped us of in front of the all white factory we could already feel the Studio JUX vibe. The JUX factory is a 2 story building with a big roof terrace and a basement. We started with a coffee and tea in the conference room and had a nice chat with Rohit and Tzering, who both talked passionately about their work at Studio JUX. They also explained us a lot of interesting things about Nepali culture and how they actually created more of a Nepali/Dutch culture mix in the Studio JUX factory nowadays. ‘We learned to think in a Dutch way’. Tzering has been with Studio JUX for 5 years and is responsible for the production management. When she first set foot in the Studio JUX factory (which was then located somewhere else in Kathmandu) she was shocked by how clean the factory was. The topic of cleanliness and how nice it is to work in a clean environment came back several times in our conversations. And we have to say the factory is spic and span – we should really tidy our showroom as well when we get back! Jitske did such an awesome job in bringing the benefits of a clear and clean working environment to Nepal. ‘We’re sort of a Dutch company in Nepal’ Tzering explains. ‘And I am very thankful for Jitske to teach us to think in a Dutch way. She and Phil really learned us how to handle and spend money and how to work with people. From our side we try to learn this to the people who work in the factory as well.’ In Nepal it is not so common to think about the future. People really live in the moment. We try to teach to the people to also save some of their salary for the future and not spent everything at once. In Nepal you have to calculate a margin to be in time for appointments, for production – for everything basically. For Nepali people it is really difficult to be in time but we manage quite well here in the factory. People are paid a decent salary and we have fixed working hours and breaks, and we have to get our orders ready in time of course. ‘We sometimes make jokes about it, with the sampling for example. We say it needs to be done in Holland time, not Nepali time – which means it needs to be done a lot quicker.’ Tzering is a very funny lady and we can tell they are having a lot of fun in running the Studio JUX factory, but both her and Rohit are very serious as well. ‘The work needs to be done in time and we supply the best quality garments in Nepal’ Tzering explains. It was really nice to hear and see that the people in the factory are as proud to work for Studio JUX as we are. Tzering told us how much she appreciates the way her company helped the people in Nepal after the Earthquake. Jitske and Phil flew to Nepal as soon as they could after they heard about the devastating Earthquake that hit Nepal in April 2015. ‘They even helped other factories. It is really great to be working for a company which is always willing to help.’ When we asked Tzering how she felt about the Studio JUX handshake where people who buy something from the Studio JUX collection can meet the tailor who made it on the Studio JUX website, Tzering said she was really proud. ‘I could spend days just looking at our website, it looks so cool. And I show it to the tailors and tell them they are famous. They like that a lot!’ Nobody said it was easy, and running a business in Nepal is everything but! A fashion business like Studio JUX needs to import (e.g. fabrics) and export goods (e.g. shippings to our Benelux customers), which is a struggle in Nepal as every now and then there are import and/or export restrictions and complicated paperwork. It is also hard to find skilled tailors in Nepal. One of the reasons for this is that a lot of young people tend to move to the Golf countries as they see more job opportunities for themselves there than in Nepal. Then there is the electricity scarcity, which the factory is solving sustainably by placing solar panels on the roof. Three solar panels have been installed on the roof already and in the future there will be enough to provide the entire factory with sufficient electricity. In the last 10 years around 60 to 70% of the factories in Nepal have closed their doors because of the country’s challenging conditions. But Studio JUX has been determined since the beginning to have their company succeed – for the people they came to love so much in Nepal and the importance of bringing business and opportunities there. The Studio JUX factory felt like a big family, one where people work hard to create a high quality beautiful product. Like every family they have an uncle (that’s how they call the man who always wears a stylish suit and teaches his super skills to the others) a granny (a lady who has been working in the factory since the beginning, looks impeccable and tells the others to keep their workspace clean) and loving parents (the management taking care of everyone). In this JUX family everyone is equal. Like Tiering said; ‘We don’t care about cast or religion, we are all the same. Also when men want to work here we ask them if they are fine when they are asked to do something by a woman’. We asked Tzering and Rohid what they would like to say to the people back home. ‘We make high quality fashion collections and we want to make the customers happy as they make us happy as well! If they are not buying, there wouldn’t be a factory either. By buying a Studio JUX piece you’re not just buying that single item, you are also providing work for 5 to 6 people in our factory. With having a factory in Nepal, Studio JUX helps the people in Nepal. A big thank you to all the Studio JUX supporters.’