Article – Kontrast Project Team
KONTRAST Project offers jewelry and clothes, but it was not always destined to turn out this way. There have been through twists and turns along the way, with a good dose of coincidences, combined with a nice cocktail of idealism and realism. We thought it might be interesting to tell you the story, once and for all, of how it all started.
Well, let’s start with the beginning, all the way back in 2012. Kine and Hedda had been flatmates for some time, and were studying at Copenhagen Business School.
We were both planning our exchange semesters, and Kine was initially heading for Shanghai, after falling in love with the bustling city she had recently travelled to (visiting Hedda who was staying there for a semester).
She had always been interested in the Himalayas, and thought it would be a place to visit while staying in Shanghai. She had heard about Mountain People, an organization working in Nepal, through some contacts. At an event in Norway she met the leader of Mountain People, and after some weeks she made the decision to drop exchange in Shanghai, and go for an internship in Nepal. Hedda was highly supportive and thought this suited Kine even better. They agreed that Kine would “pick up” Hedda in Seoul in the end of their exchange semester.
Cut to the fall of 2013. Hedda went to Seoul in South Korea for exchange, and Kine went to Nepal to have her two-part internship. First, she was working with Beni Handicraft, a social business hiring women to collect waste and produce up-cycled products sold in the Beni Handicraft shop. Kine got to know Beni Ghale, who owns and runs the business, and the women who were working at the factory.
Then she went to a tiny rural village called Nesha, where she was working at the local hospital and doing fieldwork by traveling around to nearby villages and collecting data on how the local people perceived and related to public healthcare.
Through these experiences she met and befriended local Nepalese people, and started her longterm relationship with the country. We should not forget to mention her trekking trip to Annapurna and Upper Mustang (among other destinations), which introduced her to hiking in the Himalayan range. This love story between Kine and Nepal is really the base of KONTRAST Project, and where it all began. On her way home, she came by Seoul and was raging to Hedda about all the amazing experiences she had had. Hedda saw the pictures and heard the stories, and was intrigued (and a little jealous) of all the adventures Kine had experienced.
Two years later, the earthquake hit Nepal on April 24th, 2015. Luckily, the people Kine knew were ok, but many lost their homes, and the guesthouse she had been staying in during her recurring travels had fallen apart. Thousands of people died, and there was a severe need for resources such as food, water, tents, medicines, sleeping bags, etc. Mountain People was responding quickly to the crisis and could through its close network with the Norwegian sport brand Bergans fly in sleeping bags, tents and other necessities, as well as medicines and food. In the days after the earthquake, we got the idea that we could sell some jewelry, and gather cash that we could send to Mountain People. Kine had already started to experiment with making jewelry out of inner tubes from bikes and cars that she had gathered from the streets of Kathmandu (inspired by Beni), and we quickly developed jewelry design, made a website, and launched a Facebook page and Instagram account within a week after the earthquake. The proceedings went to Mountain People. Friends, family and strangers were buying the jewelry, and we gathered around 15 000 NOK that went to Mountain People.
In general, the Nepal earthquake touched many people all over the world, and individuals, groups, businesses and organizations were gathering troops to organize concerts, events, and other activities to collect financial resources to emergency aid.
The earthquake kickstarted KONTRAST Project, but prior to the earthquake, we had been having conversations over the kitchen table for years about economic inequality, development, and what role a sustainable business model could play with regards to developing communities. We did not claim to have any answers to these MAJOR issues, but our interests propelled us into starting KONTRAST Project as an actual business. Six months after the earthquake we were legally registered, with a social business model, and had plans of integrating Nepal as much as we could.
As Kine was (and is) studying textile design, it was only a matter of time before she ventured into designing and getting ideas for a KONTRAST Project clothing collection. In the fall of 2015, Hedda and Kine went together to Nepal, to do research on environmentally friendly textiles and clothing production.
This was Hedda’s first time to visit, and she could finally meet the people and see the nature for herself. In January 2016, we went to Nepal yet again, this time with the aim of finding a factory to produce clothes in. After thorough research on different textiles, we decided to go for hemp (which you can read more about here). We decided to make some samples at a factory that specializes in natural fibers, and thus the first KONTRAST shirts were born.
Since then, it’s been a long ride with designing, and making changes and trying and testing the samples. We have also experimented with producing beauty bags of hemp and recycled sarees. Today we sell our clothes in our webshop as well as in shops around Norway (and hopefully soon Copenhagen). In addition to the clothes and jewelry, KONTRAST has other ongoing and future projects, but that will be left for another article 🙂