"When the Earthquake struck at the heart of Nepal, a country that has been a stoic friend to me from the first day I arrived back in '84, I knew I had to do all I could to mobilize my many friends in the trade and pull together all the support we could find.
My first job was to find the best way to channel funds into Kathmandu and ensure they would be used wisely. 25 years of working in Nepal has bred a more than healthy caution that funds need a lot of managing. So I talked to some of my friends there that work in aid agencies and large NGOs including the Red Cross and others. All of them agreed that Alison Marsten, who was already working on a serious initiative was the best person to work with. She had a network in place with her mum Wendy Marsten OBE already set up with her long established BVS Nepal burns charity in Kathmandu. Wendy's great work over the years was recently recognised by a visit from prince Harry. Her employers, the widely respected Bulldog Trust in London were ready and eager to provide vital infrastructure without any charge. With this understanding of how we could work and sharing Alisons sentiment and creative ideas I was confident to bring in people who I felt would want to offer their support for this initiative.
My first port of call was brands and friends who made their goods in Nepal and would understand the problems best. I called Kusan whose hand knitted hats come from Bhaktapur, the ancient city most severely effected. Kurt and Sandra were already making their own efforts and immediately saw the potential in us joining forces. Next I called Yumi as Uttam the founder comes from Nepal and found he was also already working on emergency relief for his village - despite their own efforts they also made big contributions to Brand Aid. The three of us met and we agreed to work as a team and fly the Brand Aid flag to rally all the support we could get.
People's response to the online page we setup was amazing and we saw brilliant donations coming in from our friends brands and the public who were fans of these brands.
We had swift and generous donations from Religion, Braintree, White Stuff, YogaMatters, Nomads, Firebrand, Julian Dunkerton (founder of Superdry) and Continental to name a few. We had a great wave of support from fans of Joe Browns catalogue and from Nicce streetwear. Snugbug made a late great donation out of the blue and there was amazing support from Fat Face who collected buckets of funds in their shops. Komodo stockists colleected from the public in their stores and many personal family and friends gave generously. We had support from our insurers St. Giles Insurance and our friends Pachamama had their own donation page setup that also fed into our funds going through to Alison.
Funds poured in through our Everyclick campaign to Bulldog Trust who directly chanelled them through to BVS in Kathmandu from where Alsions team was able to manage careful distribution. More funds went directly to Uttams village project and to Kusans Bhaktapur relief work - all of it under the BRAND AID umbrella which helped give a feeling of team work in the end. Knowing our efforts were making such an instant impact by the funds raised being channelled swiftly to where they were needed most was something we could all feel proud about.
The funds we sent have given huge support to many vital projects selected and brilliantly managed by Alison, which you can read about in depth here: NERA Brand Aid report
Some funds also went to Kusans Bhaktapur project and to Uttams village. The three of us have been out in the field visiting some of the worst affected areas and the projects that these donations have funded. There is of course always more to be done, but we want Brand Aid supporters to know that we achieved a lot with their donations and it is truly appreciated by the people who have benefitted from them.
Unfortunately the same can't be said for the majority of funds collected for Nepal by the general public, large corporate and world governments donations as the lions share of this money is languishing in the infamous "Prime Ministers Fund" as the local bureaucrats cannot decide how to dispense them and reading between the lines gain from them.
I don't think there is another industry that gives you the experience of juggling problems like the rag trade and so… Joe Komodo says… “Sometimes you need a bunch of fashion designers to get the job done!"
Photo: Aid packages ready for distribution, Kathmandu 2015 / Joe Komodo distributing aid packs donated by our fabric supplier.