It’s almost ironic. While Western attire and labels are all the rage here, the West seems to be waking up to Sri Lankan designs.
Realising the potential, David Thomas and his wife Nadia, have made a small business venture of selling garments, bags, jewellery and more from developing countries, which includes Sri Lanka, in the United Kingdom. Their London shop, Danaqa, is what’s known as an ‘ethical business’. Elaborating on their business and how it works, David Thomas spoke to the Sunday Times Magazine.
Q:What’s the story behind Danaqa and how were you inspired to set up the store?
I am a development worker, who has worked for the last six-seven years in different countries around the world. My wife, Nadia, has been living and working in Africa and Asia for the past 11 years.
I tried to focus my work on business and finance development for small businesses, and after six years I felt that I could contribute more by establishing a business which promotes quality, design and aspiration from interesting countries - an attempt to move away from an overly charity mindset.
Q:From which countries do you receive items?
We receive items from Ethiopia, Rwanda, Botswana, Sri Lanka and Nepal - in the next set of orders for Christmas we hope to add Senegal and Haiti to this list.
Q:How does Danaqa help the needy people from these countries?
We follow fully with fair trade principles when buying, ensuring that we pay fair prices, do not pressurise the businesses too much with very short time frames, pay portions of the funds up-front and (importantly) - are keen to repeat orders and develop relationships with quality suppliers.
All of the businesses that we source from are women led, and themselves contribute to their communities or are community based initiatives.
Q:What are the items from Sri Lanka that are being sold at Danaqa?
We source jewellery, silk scarves, and household items from wonderfully skilled craftspeople in Sri Lanka
Q:What do you think of the items from Sri Lanka?
I love the Sri Lankan items. They have such character and sophistication to them - I think it is this sophistication in design which sets them apart from some of our other stock. All of our Sri Lankan products really show off the incredible skills and design elements that are present in Sri Lankan culture and history.
Q:What has the response been from your customers for the Sri Lankan items?
Very positive indeed! I think some of the wealthier customers we have really like the quality in material and design of the Sri Lankan products. We have sold a number of items, and are already reordering from our suppliers there!
Q:Have you come across any difficulties in exporting items from Sri Lanka?
There are always some teething issues with anything - especially as we are focused on working with small businesses, and design led craftsmen! We are a young business and are learning along with our supplying countries. I think that in Sri Lanka there are large exporters who are very used to the rigours, controls and rules of exporting, but we work with very small businesses, designers and entrepreneurs. What is important for us is that we wanted these relationships to be long, so we work together with everyone involved to make the processes smoother.
For more information visit the Danaqa website- http://www.danaqa.com/.