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Who we are


Terra Nomas was founded by Elin Jensen and Simen Rønne, a Norwegian couple currently residing in Singapore.  They both have had long academic careers, mainly in engineering, product development and project management, but also social work, health education and public health care.  After many years in the oil and gas industry, they decided to take a leap of faith, harvest some of their creativity and make their own products, and at the same time do their part in making this a better world to live in for everyone.  Parallel to the development of their own handmade textile products, they also offer other ethically sourced products, with a focus on sustainability and quality. Their aim is to promote the work of other likeminded artisans, handmade products they call “stuff with a story”, made in line with fair-trade principles, and often a result of community projects around the world.  They are focused on fair-trade and social responsibility in all links of the supply chain, promoting vendors and projects that have a similar mind-set.

They source from all over the world, but are mainly focusing on sustainability and empowerment of marginalised groups in society, and also preservation of traditional art and craft. Certification is not a must as long as the vendors apply to fair-trade principles, as they are seeking to promote, not exclude.

This way they are making sure their customers have the best of what the artisan world has to offer, and enabling a conscious choice at the same time.

 

HOW IT ALL STARTED

In 2010, the couple lived in Malawi, Africa. Elin was working at Mzuzu University, implementing a bachelor programme in optometry, catering for a region in dire need of eye health care. The university holidays were spent road tripping around the neighbouring countries with their two kids in the backseat. After driving around Zambia and visiting Victoria falls, they decided to take a detour and visit South Luangwa Valley, a remote nature reserve famous for its wildlife even in Africa.

Beside the stunning surroundings, they stumbled across Tribal Textiles, a producer of beautiful hand painted textiles, with a mix of traditional and contemporary designs. Elin fell head over heels in love with the products, and also the principles the business was built on. As a former social worker, to her this was the ultimate community based enterprise. Thoroughly impressed, she started dreaming of promoting the products to a wider audience. Now, as it often happens, life came in the way of her dreams, and she moved back to Norway to pursue a Master’s degree in Management, moving on from health education to the oil and gas industry.

The dream wasn’t forgotten though, and she would frequently go back to check on her favourite community project. It wasn’t until she and Simen took their children with them to Singapore that she would go back to her former plan and finally take the plunge into the world of artisan retail. For her, this was also a long longed-for opportunity to develop her own creative textile products. As always, the couples’ team spirit is coming through, with both of them being hands on with the development of the enterprise. Stay tuned for more exciting surprises coming!

 

WHAT WE BELIEVE IN

Making sure that everyone involved at any stage of design and manufacturing is paid fairly, has safe and hygienic working conditions, have reasonable hours, and that they are not subject to discrimination and also that they are of decent working age (typically 16 years old or over) are main principles for Terra Nomas. Besides simply having a clear conscience, we believe being transparent about our business happenings helps build trust in our customers.

Today we are sourcing from all over the world, but we are mainly focusing on sustainability and empowerment of marginalised groups in society, and also preservation of traditional art and craft.

We have a multi-tiered approach to ethical sourcing. First of all, we made use of an ethical sourcing consultant, Annie Oakley Waterman, who helped us identify our first batch of vendors. We have also actively been seeking fairtrade certified vendors. However, even if vendors aren’t certified, it doesn’t mean they aren’t applying the right principles (and sometimes even further). Some designers and projects choose not to, based on a wide range of reasons, sometimes their reputation or the nature of their project simply makes it unnecessary. We would not be doing ourselves or our customers a favour if we excluded vendors on a certification basis only! We seek to promote, not exclude, and encourage rather than discourage. If these projects receive the attention they deserve, there really is no limit to what they can achieve in their respective communities, certification or not.

Annie led us to some of the most beautiful products based on her extensive knowledge of the handmade artisan industry. We are happy to say that we have found a wide range of vendors that we believe in, both when it comes to quality and also integrity.