Designer Phoebe Dahl on her Work in Nepal and the Country's Uncertain Future
The young Los Angeles fashion designer Phoebe Dahl, who runs the year-old all-linen clothing line Faircloth & Supply, felt a personal connection to the victims of last month’s earthquake in Nepal. That’s because her company donates a pair of uniforms to Nepalese schoolgirls for every sale it makes at stores like Urban Outfitters in the States. As it happens, Dahl—the granddaughter of the legendary children’s book author Roald and cousin of the author and former model Sophie—was in India just days after having visited Nepal with her mother, the screenwriter Lucy, when the crisis struck. After returning home to L.A., she spoke about her relationship with Nepal and the country’s precarious future.
Why did you decide to set up the charitable arm of your company in Nepal?
I started with the cause I was interested in and wasn’t too particular about the country. I wanted it to be girl’s education and womens’ empowerment, and to leave it up to fate just to see where that would be. I have a family friend, the Founder of Go Campaign, who has worked closely with GWP, which is very big on fighting sex trafficking in Nepal through education and empowering girls just by giving them a uniform. There are a lot of girls who can’t afford a uniform, and to go to school you have to have one to equalize the caste system. Now for every sale we make, we donate two uniforms, a scholarship, and school supplies.
Do you interact with the girls?
On the last trip I got to hand out uniforms to girls hadn’t received them. It was incredible to watch how excited they would get. It stands for so much more—an education and a chance at a life of freedom. They’re also excited to meet me. Everyone wants to come up and tell me their stories or play games or introduce me to their families.
What have you learned about the country by going back?
The Nepalese people are the kindest people in the entire world. People just want to cook for you and feed you and take you in. It feels like family. Their hope and love and goodwill will be the saving grace in rebuilding their community, because they’re so caring of others.
Do you have a favorite place in Nepal?
One is the old city in Katmandu, which I’m so, so, so thankful I got to see because it’s one of the most beautiful places—all the old buildings, it’s like stepping back in time. It’s a really magical place. A lot of that has been destroyed.
You’d just left Nepal for India when the earthquake struck. What was your reaction to the news?
It was devastating. I heard about it before America had woken up, so I immediately sent an email to my newsletter list about what people could do. Having been there so recently, my bond with the place was stronger than ever. I wanted to go back. I was traveling with my mom and she had to physically stop me from going back. She said, “You can do so much more for the Nepalese community by being home and educating people and raising money.”
How do you hope Americans respond to the crisis?
Just stay present on the topic. It will start to fade. Sadly, that’s what happens with natural disasters. Keep it in the back of your mind that they are going to need help for years. With Faircloth, we’re going to introduce new products, shirts, prayer flags, and bracelets, with 100 percent of the benefits going to Nepal. I highly recommend anyone, and everyone to visit Nepal it is an incredible country.