our journey, values and team
At House of Wandering Silk,
textiles are not just textiles;
That’s because our pieces are
made by hand from beginning to end,
bringing together the skills, traditions
and cultures of artisanal communities from across Asia.
Each artisan, each place and each technique adds to this story,
and we are their story tellers.
Value 1: authenticity
We are story tellers.
We believe the people, skills and heritage behind each product are just as beautiful as the product itself. These stories deserve to be told, and we
endeavour to be as transparent as possible in the telling.
Value 2: respect
Our work respects people and planet.
The use of upcycled, handmade and vintage materials is the foundation for our designs.
We partner with a careful selection of organisations and directly with artisans to ensure we're offering livelihood opportunities to women who need it most, and that all artisans are fairly paid and treated.
Value 3: beauty
We exist to create beauty.
For our customers, beauty in the aesthetic value of our products, and the connection to age-old skills and distant lands.
For our artisans, beauty in the opportunities that open up to them through a dignified and secure livelihood and economic independence.
As Ghandi said, “there is no beauty in the finest cloth if it makes hunger and unhappiness.”
Katherine / Founder & Director
From Sydney, Australia
Katherine is our top cat, our Madam G, and the power in our house. Starting in 2011, she built House of Wandering Silk from a one-product, one-woman show into what it is nowadays—a thriving company sustaining the livelihood of hundreds of specialised female artisans and our small team.
Originally from Sydney, her extensive travel (70+ countries) and previous career as a humanitarian aid worker has made her a citizen of the world.
She steers our ship, tells great jokes and makes a mean cappuccino- which, lets be real, is the only way we can do any of this.
Maria / Operations Manager
From Manipur, India
Maria is our operations whiz, shipping guru and all around steadying force. She turned House of Wandering Silk into a two-woman show when she joined in early 2014.
She’s a Delhi transplant of 22 years, born and raised in the northeast state of Manipur. When she’s not buzzing around the studio at full speed, she runs her own clothing store, by the name of RaRa, in the ever popular Lajpat Nagar Central Market.
We trust her with our life and have never met a kinder human.
Samantha / Studio Manager
From Maine, USA
The newest member of our team, Samantha has taken to HOWS like a fish to water. Her generosity of spirit, positivity and hard work have made her very quickly indispensable to the team.
She's a natural dye practitioner whose love for traditional textiles and desire to delve into the story behind them fire her constant flow of creative energy.
Like the rest of us, she wears multiple hats - in any one day, she'll be posting out orders, photographing new stock, working on the website, meeting with partners, modelling our new collections, giving design feedback, creating content, meeting customers in our studio or at a pop up.... the list is endless, just like Samantha's boundless enthusiasm!
Arin / Operations Assistant
From Manipur, India
Is our go-to gal, our right hand lady with a pair of eagle eyes. She’s our queen of quality control and has likely handled every sari and fabric that’s passed through this door (which is alot!).
Two years ago she migrated to Delhi from Manipur and we're lucky she joined our team 5 months ago. She’s always the best dressed and the least stressed.
Kanchan / Cleaning Auntie
From Chennai, India
Kanchan is our cleaning auntie, who helps keep the Delhi dust and dirt (which is constantly blowing through our ground floor studio!) at bay.
She has the sweetest personality, and is always wearing a radiant smile (except in photos!).
Big thanks to this woman for maintaining our studio and helping us preserve the quality of our textiles through consistent care.
We partner with a network of groups across India and beyond, intentionally and carefully selected and audited by our team to ensure they share and implement our goal: to provide fairly-paid, dignified and secure home-based work to marginalised women artisans, with the objective of empowering them to achieve economic independence and create better lives for themselves, their families and their communities.
These groups represent a wide range of organisations; women's Self Help Groups and cooperatives, trade unions, family businesses, NGOs, social enterprises, and individual artisans. Our partners include well-established organisations and new setups; family businesses, and a trade union with almost two million members. At any one time, we're working with over a dozen partners and several hundred women artisans.
We believe authentic, hand made and traditional textiles have fascinating stories to tell about the artisan and her community's textile heritage. By sharing these stories in a transparent way, we believe our textiles can connect the worlds of maker and wearer.
House of Wandering Silk was set up by founder and director, Katherine Neumann. The story of House of
Wandering Silk is an extension of Katherine's story:
Katherine was born to immigrant parents in Sydney, Australia. By her nineteenth year she had flown
the family nest to study in Japan, completing her degree in International Relations under a Japanese
Government scholarship. Katherine lived in Osaka and Tsukuba for almost six years, patronising
all-you-can-eat sushi bars, shopping for vintage yukatas at flea markets, and traveling across Asia at
every chance she had. It was during this time that she met with Safia Minney; fair-trade pioneer and
founder of People Tree. This sparked the interest in fair trade that later led to House of Wandering Silk.
With the singleminded goal of working in the development sector, Katherine moved to London where she
threw herself into every internship, volunteer position and job related in any way to aid and development.
If you lived in London in 2004/5, chances are she knocked on your door at some point during this time asking you to sponsor a child through WorldVision!
After a six month internship with Human Rights Watch, Katherine began her almost ten-year career with the French Humanitarian Organisation, ACTED, in Afghanistan just before her twenty-fifth birthday. Following six months based in Mazar-e-Sharif, spent enjoying cardamom ice-cream, dodging land mines and getting her head around the vagaries of International Development, Katherine moved to Mansehra, in the former North West Frontier Province of Pakistan, in the wake of the catastrophic Kashmir earthquake of 2005.
Here she lived for two years, during which time she met the wonderful social entrepreneur, Cath Braid, from the Islamabad-based ethical fashion brand, Polly & Other Stories. This was when Katherine decided that one day, by hook or by crook, she would set up her own fair-trade business. In her spare time and on weekends, Katherine began to meet with women artisans in northern Pakistan; these same artisans now work on our Pakistan Justi Shawls. Meanwhile, her position as a Humanitarian Aid Worker took her to conflict and disaster zones in Iraq, Lebanon, Sudan, Kenya, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, India, Vietnam and Myanmar. One eye was always kept open for unique and beautiful textiles and the women artisans who kept alive their textile heritage. It's these networks that House of Wandering Silk builds upon today.
In 2010, Katherine set up home in New Delhi, India, working part time on development and emergencies and taking baby steps towards setting up House of Wandering Silk. Finally, in 2013, she left her job of almost ten years and dedicated herself full time to the business. Following six years of living in Delhi, Katherine now splits her time between her home in Berlin, her studio in Delhi and traveling the world seeking out authentic textile stories.
With three passports in her carry-on and once aptly described as having the "feet of a wandering calf", it is not surprising that travel has been the single constant in Katherine's life. She has lived, worked and travelled in some 70 countries and counting: overland odysseys from Pakistan to Tibet, epic journeys across West Africa, and Central Asian sojourns to name but a few of her escapades. Our journal chronicles some of Katherine's travels and travel tips (usually related to textiles or tea): such as her suggestions for suzani shopping in Samarkand, how best to journey from Kashgar to Tibet, and the hidden teahouse in Lhasa that you don't want to miss!
All images on this website are Katherine's own unless otherwise stated.
HOUSE OF WANDERING SILK TODAY
House of Wandering Silk is a social for-profit company based out of a beautiful studio (contact us to visit!) in New Delhi, whose founding was based on the idea, so aptly put by Gandhi, that "there is no beauty in the finest cloth if it makes hunger and unhappiness". We work with a network of partners to hand craft and bring to market authentic, ethical and beautiful textile-based products using upcycled, hand made and vintage materials, and maintaining standards of the highest quality.
House of Wandering Silk sells a curated collection of our products online. But what you see here is only the tip of the iceberg! Our main business is wholesale and we partner with some wonderful stores to bring our products to all corners of the world. Our stockists have included the Victoria & Albert Museum Store and Selfridges in London, the Minneapolis Institute of Art, and Good Earth in India.
Our vision is to be a brand representing marginalised women producers and artisans from all regions of South, Central and Southeast Asia, showcasing their full range of weaving and embroidery techniques and skills. If we're not already, we hope to be your go-to brand for stunning and unique textile-based lifestyle products that you know to be produced to the highest quality and ethical standards. To complement our products, we aim for our website to be an immersive platform to connect your world with that of the artisan - for you to learn about, and be inspired by, the stories of our textiles, artisans and travels.