Why I started a fashion brand with nomadic yak herders - RSA

Why I started a fashion brand with nomadic yak herders


  • Picture of Nancy Johnston FRSA
    Nancy Johnston FRSA
  • Manufacturing
  • Sustainability
  • Fellowship

Nancy Johnston FRSA recently launched Tengri, a global textile manufacturer and fashion brand that has sustainability and transparency at its heart. She explains why she has made it her mission to support Mongolia's Nomadic Yak Herders.

As a kid, I saw a picture of Mongolia and the images fascinated me. The picture was part of a recruitment drive to import skilled workers to countries new to democracy and a free-market economy. Although I was too young to volunteer, that image stayed with me until the idea behind Tengri was born.

Tengri is a ‘fairshare’ business, designed in partnership with nomadic Mongolian herders from whom I source premium noble yak fibres directly. We share the business profits fairly and grow in harmony with the Mongolian communities and their environment. It’s a relatively simple model and in a very short time, the number of nomadic families involved in the cooperatives trading with Tengri has grown from 398 to more than 1,500.

Tengri’s direct supply chain with herders takes forward the work of more than a decade’s worth of conservation efforts and international research conducted as part of Mongolia’s Green Gold project. The qualities of yak fibres are similar to cashmere but do not come with the same environmental cost; cashmere goat overpopulation and overgrazing are the main cause of environmental degradation in the Himalayas' cultivation regions. Our international trading activity with nomadic herders has influenced the Mongolian government to grant land and herding rights to herder families involved with Tengri, rights that were not previously recognised.

Tengri Mongolian Partnerships

The future of Mongolia's nomadic communities are threatened by rapid industrialisation and land-erosion. And yet, managed the right way, growing export markets can protect the people and landscapes of this unique region.

Our work has inspired environmental activism and has enabled the nomadic herder community in Mongolia for the first time to trade and export goods directly on the international market without any intermediary support or third-party intervention or assistance.

We are now in the early stages of furthering this research with conservationist scientists to look more closely at our environmental impact on the fragile ecosystem, and determine whether or not fashion can truly be a force for good.

Tengri is a global business. We offer impact through every stage of our supply chain, this means being transparent and creating social benefit for our producers, partners, clients and customers.

Britain’s textiles manufacturing heritage is an asset for our brand. Since 2014 we have manufactured Mongolian yak fibre to produce Tengri noble yak yarns with the support of leading textile researchers and scientists and highly skilled craftsman in Scotland and England.

Cultivating Tengri Noble Yarns

We are looking at innovative ways to create new yarns and fabric from yak noble fibre, including the use of a range of green technologies, closed-loop systems, ballistic-based technology and waterless and toxic-free dyes made from locally sourced plants.

I’m incredibly proud, honoured and humbled by the time, energy and compassion that people have shared with me in the pursuit of my vision for Tengri. Our vision for change towards equitable and sustainable practice aligns strongly with the values of the RSA and Fellowship.

I would welcome my readers to become part of Tengri’s journey in building an aspirational company to do good. Perhaps you would like us to share our learning and story with you?

If you would like to support Tengri or find out more contact Nancy Johnston FRSA, Socialpreneur, CEO & Founder - Tengri


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