For thousands of years, indigenous nomadic herders have stewarded land and animals across the globe. One corner of that stewardship is shepherding, a piece of traditional ecological knowledge imitated by holistic planned grazing. These practices regenerate the soil, plants and biosphere by mimicking the natural movements of semi-wild yaks on the landscapes they evolved from and for.
As is customary in nature, the gifts given are bound to reason. Throughout the winter, which dips temperatures well below freezing, the yak grows a down coat to protect itself from the elements. Then, when the weather warms again, these woolly coats release, offering the tribes who care for them the opportunity to comb and collect the fleece shed to be spun into yarn.
By remaining close to its natural state, this durable fleece invites each item created to return to the landscapes from which it was born, once the garments created have lived their lives in their new form.
This naturally circular fashion system, created by mother nature to be free from harm, is put at risk by the antithetical fashions of fast societies whose cultures uphold degenerative subsistence by creating in ways which poison and pull resources the land’s bounty with unnatural supremacy and speed, contributing heavily to climate breakdown and consumptive disease.
Yak rearing is practised over a wide geographical area involving diverse groups of people, cultures, indigenous knowledge, as well as ecological zones, migration patterns, crops, genetic resources, and socio-ecological interactions. These peoples, animals and lands are facing the effects of climate breakdown, contributing to shortages in winter fodder, a decline in the number of yaks born and surviving, and restrictions on mobility and exchange.
By supporting small regenerative brands who source with integrity and create with traditional artistry is one small way of ensuring the knowledge and practices of peoples wiser than we, are protected, supported as well as our soil, lands, waterways and the lives that live above and below it.
BRANDS PRODUCING WITH REGENERATIVE YAK WOOL
Below, I’ve shared a working list in progress of regenerative, ethical, fair yak wool brands, each produced in small batches.
Based in Nepal, the production process of their yak knits is handled from start to finish by maximizing transparency and social impact. The yak is fairly traded from local nomadic tribes and each knit is created in the homes of artisans working with the local social enterprise Diandi partners enabling flexible work environments.
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