c/o: Susan Bowlus, Anna In Bhutan

In every area of consumption, we’ve seen consumers place preference on sustainable, ethically sourced products. More specifically, over the past few years we’ve seen thousands of fashion brands, like Stella McCartney and Reformation, announce their sustainability initiatives.

Meet Anna in Bhutan, a luxury fashion company producing sustainable, ethical, and eco-friendly silk + cotton scarves in Bhutan (officially the Kingdom of Bhutan) – a landlocked country in South Asia that is the only carbon negative country in the world.

Each scarf is handwoven in Bhutan by well-paid women of a matriarchal society – where women have central roles of leadership. After the weaving process, each scarf is taken to a Buddhist temple in the lush valley of Thimphu where they undergo an individual and unique blessing by highly respected monks.  It is believed that each blessed scarf will bring its future owner positivity, harmony and good luck.

More than just a brand, Anna in Bhutan is a movement supporting Bhutan’s ideology, spirituality, female artisans, and a path against climate change. Each scarf is not just a trendy item of clothing, but a unique and stylish memento that will protect you through your life’s journey. 

We were lucky enough to chat with Kate Broug, founder of Anna in Bhutan, philanthropist and climate-change activist to learn more about the brand and its unique offerings.

What was your initial attraction to Bhutan/ what made you take your first trip there?

Kate Broug (KB): My first trip to Bhutan was a bit over a year ago. I’ve been fascinated by the country for as long as I can remember. It’s the only carbon-negative country in the world, has a fascinating history of enlightened monarchs and rather than measuring its GDP, the country relies on its GNH – its Gross National Happiness index. In today’s environment of global warming, I wanted to see how people live in a country that reduces global warming. I was able to see first-hand, how the policy of one person (in this case, the 4th King), properly implemented, can improve the lives of so many people. I knew this was a special trip that I’d probably do only once in my life.

Can you describe your first trip? How many times have you been?

KB: During my first trip, I fell in love with the country. The people were kind, respectful, spiritual, compassionate, and imbued with Buddhist values. Seventy-one percent of the country is forest covered, and it’s the only carbon-negative country in the world! I wanted to share a piece of this amazing country with the rest of the world. That’s when Anna in Bhutan was born. I’ve since been back and will be going back soon.

What inspired you to create the Anna in Bhutan brand? 

KB: My original inspiration came from the country itself and its people. We have a lot to learn from Bhutan.

Can you talk about your initial interaction with Bhutanese weavers? 

KB: During my second trip, I was lucky enough to sit in a room with three weaving women. Sometimes they engaged in conversation, chatting and laughing; sometimes one woman would start humming, and others would follow — it was the most wonderful sound. It’s important to note that Bhutan has a matriarchal society, where women are the head of the family and weaving is a tradition that has been passed down for generations.

Can you share some notable qualities / aspects of the scarves? 

KB: Each Anna in Bhutan scarf is handwoven by women in the comfort of their own homes.  The fibers of our scarves are mostly died organically, using traditional methods. The finished scarves are brought to Thimphu’s leading temple, where they undergo a singular blessing by eight high-ranked monks and a Lama (the highest-ranked Buddhist monk). They first cleanse the scarves and then infuse them with positivity, harmony, and good luck. This makes every Anna in Bhutan scarf a unique accessory.

What is your favorite style? 

KB: I have two favorite styles: the Sengor and the Daga scarf.  Both scarves are incredibly elegant and 100% silk. I wear them when I go to work with a suit or blazer for a pop of color, but also on a special night out. 

Recently, we’ve seen a rise in sustainable fashion – can you share your thoughts on this / the importance of brands becoming more eco- friendly to reduce carbon footprint?

KB: I believe it’s crucial that we move towards sustainable methods in fashion. Our goal at Anna in Bhutan is to help facilitate this essential shift. We reflect this in our production process and other aspects of our business. During our first months, we’ve taken a first step to actively work toward global reforestation, which is something we’d advise everyone to do. We currently have a collaboration with One Tree Planted, an organization that focuses on global reforestation. For every Anna in Bhutan scarf sold, we plant a tree. We want to show that a company like ours — a company that doesn’t focus on mass-production, but rather on a healthy planet — can be successful.

What is your future vision for Anna in Bhutan / where do you see the brand in 5 years?

KB: Our long-term goals are to expand our brand in as many ways as we can, and we’re readily looking to duplicate the work we do in Bhutan in other countries. We will also look at new opportunities to support women creating fashion in their home environments in an ethical, responsible, and carbon-conscious way.

Are there new collections on the horizon that differ from current collections? Or are there any developments consumers can look forward to?

KB: Absolutely! Moving forward, we want to collaborate with new designers, bring specialty wools to market, and to expand our sustainable fashion offerings beyond scarves.

For more information, visit annainbhutan.com.