The humming of sewing machines and faint music from a local FM station are the dominant sounds filling the workshop of Yala Collection as I enter. Tall shelves near the wall are stacked with colorful clothes of brocade and silk that are pleasing to the eye.Women busy stitching polyester bags to brocade cushion covers seem unperturbed by the arrival of a stranger. Among the women working here is Mina Maharjan. However, she isnot one of the workers; she is an entrepreneur in her early thirties who has been leading this fabric craft firm. A family business led by Mina and her older sibling, Krishna Maharjan, Yala Collection specializes in making cushions, quilts and exporting their signature singing bowl cushion and yoga accessories.
Mina learnt the basics of sewing and stitching at the age of 17. Sheused to talk with the workers with experienced hands and spend her spare time from school as an informal trainee. From them she learnt about patterns, tailoring and cutting. She has been in the business for almost 15 years and did not have it easyas she had to keep up with her studies and work side by side. Having completed her Masters in Business studies, she remembers herstruggle to balance the responsibility of running a family business alongside her father and brother,with her academics at school.
Yala Collectionwas not always dedicated to making aesthetic items and accessories forinteriors and yoga, they used to make customized dresses and attires for their customers. The shift from a boutique to fabric craft occurred with the change in customers over the years. Now, almost a decade later, this organization makes products like yoga mats, cushions, mattresses, beddings, jewelry bags and quilts among others custom-made products that are known for their quality and durability. Krishna Maharjan guarantees that the cushions and blankets of Yala Collection are exclusively cotton-stuffed and they go on as good as the new onesfor almost ten years.They have been catering to hotels, restaurants, residences and monasteries in the country. While 40% of Yala’s merchandise is sold in Nepal, the rest are imported to the United States, Germany and France. Kathmandu Yogi, Eastern Vibration and Craft Mountain Suppliesin the United States are some of the organizations that import Yala’s crafts to their country.
With Yala Collection, Mina has been able to employ women from her community to utilize their skills and help them become self-reliant through the products they make. It has become an organization for employees to try their hand on what they already know and make use of it to create the best quality products. She gives credit to her brother and employees for taking the fabric craft firm to where it is today. Mina takes pride in talking about her business, claiming that their goods never disappoint their clients when it comes to quality and tenacity.Theirproducts also reflect a local way of making products which can be seen in their cotton stuffed cushions, meditation bowl rest cushions and mattresses as well as their unique Mandala pattern in cushion covers and wall hanging pouch with multiple pockets.
Started as a small business of clothing in the local community of Patan, Mina now looks after the production and trade of Yala Collection’s goodsin Nepal and outside the country as well. Her advice to the local entrepreneurs of Nepal is to focus on the artistry we have inherited from our ancestors rather than completelyembracing the culture derived from outside.“No work is superior or inferior,” she says “Life is a learning process and I am glad that I learned the skills of sewing and needlework when I was young, which has led me to make use of it and let other women learn and make use of their skills to come up with Yala’s products.” She adds, “Customers should trust the quality of products made here in Nepal and use them to know it for themselves which is how we will be promoting our local artisans, designs and goods.