Threads by Nomad is a lifestyle brand that seeks to celebrate diversity through design, and to create opportunities to thrive for those who are displaced or in danger of displacement.
Threads by Nomad sources fabric from across the globe, employs refugees in the United States, and provides an avenue for micro-enterprise entrepreneurs worldwide to sell their creations.
Our e-commerce business launched in late 2016 with a small capsule collection of seven pieces representing the traditions and fashions of West Africa. Since then we have produced large seasonal collections as well as more targeted mini-collections. Our fabrics and accessories have been sourced from West Africa, India, Togo, Thailand, Bali, Guatemala, Ethiopia, Kyrgyzstan, and Mexico.
We have also grown our offerings to include gifts and accessories such as handmade dolls, pillows, clutches, and scarves. This is a category we will continue to grow.
A key component of the production is the hiring of refugees stateside and the enlisting of creators from various countries providing micro-enterprise opportunities. We have collaborated with refugee artisans living in the United States from Iraq, Iran, Pakistan, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Azerbaijan and Afghanistan as well as craftsmen from as far away as West Africa and East Asia.
(Note: All refugees come into the United States through the United Nations. They are legal, vetted, given a Social Security Number and a work permit. They receive three months of financial assistance by the government and are fully employable.)
Nell and Christen—a mother-daughter duo and lifelong "nomads"—have dreamt for years of owning a business together. At one point, they considered writing a book or maybe even owning a store. But in December of 2015, they returned to Dakar, Senegal where they lived in the 1980s and '90s only to fall in love all over again with the fabrics and fashion from that part of the world. The seed for Threads by Nomad was planted.
After three years of steady growth, in 2019 Threads by Nomad became a subsidiary of the non-profit The Off Ramp. The Off Ramp shares in Threads' mission of creating opportunities to thrive for those who are displaced or in danger of being displaced. Together, Threads by Nomad and The Off Ramp seek to help end the cycle of poverty for these individuals by investing in them and their talents.
Hayder was born in Najasi, Iraq. At the age of twelve, he began apprenticing with his friend's father while studying and working. Later, he owned and operated a successful custom clothing shop there — Dar Mawasim Fashion. He hired his friend Mohammed as the manager and enjoyed working together.
Hayder moved to the United States on October 29, 2014. When we asked him what brought him to the U.S., he told us that it was because it was very dangerous in Iraq. Hayder now lives in Houston with his wife of twenty years and three sons, ages 18, 17 and 4.
He has thirty-five years of design and tailoring experience. Now, as the chief tailor at Threads by Nomad, it is Hayder's responsibility to consult on the designs and hand-make every single order that gets placed. Hayder loves what he does and takes pride in his craftsmanship. He works hard to grow and learn in his craft, to better his skills in tailoring and ability in design.
Hayder enjoys living in the United States, where he says people are gracious and like helping others. Still, he misses his parents who are still in Iraq.
Munir is from Lahor, Pakistan. As did Hayder, he began apprenticing at a tailor's shop at the age of 12. He apprenticed for three years before working full-time starting at the age of 15.
He has been married for five years. Soon after he married, he and his wife had to flee to Sri Lanka where they spent four years and three months. During this lengthy period of transition, Munir and his wife had a lovely daughter who is now three years old. They have only been in the United States since mid-spring 2018.
Munir hasn't been in the US long enough to really get a grasp of what he likes and dislikes but he has identified one thing he is especially fond of--big shopping malls like the Galleria in Houston!
Munir is a truly excellent tailor who is independent and self-motivated. He is ready and wants to work hard. As of now, he has another job doing alterations and will contribute to Threads on the side. With that said, he has great potential and we are thrilled he is a member of our team. Now, it is up to us to sell enough so we can hire him full-time in the near future! Never forget that your Threads purchases contribute directly to improving the lives of refugees like Munir.
Embroidery & Crochet: Atia
Atia was born in Kabul, Afghanistan. It was there that she learned embroidery and crochet from a friend at the age of 33.
Atia moved to the United States in 2015. When we asked her what brought her to the U.S., she told us that it was because her country had very bad fighting. Atia now lives in Houston with her husband of twenty-one years and six children--two boys and four girls including a newborn! She tells us that she wakes up every morning at 7AM to work and provide for her family.
Now, as the artisan in charge of embroidery and crochet at Threads by Nomad, it is Atia's responsibility to hand-embroider our custom labels on every single garment that is ordered.
Atia misses the dresses and beautiful clothing that women wear in Afghanistan, but admits to loving the shopping in the United States. She likes everything, but especially the shopping! "I want to make friends, but it is hard because I don't speak English."
Contributing Artist: Iman
When doors were closed to Iman continuing as a gynecologist, she decided to try her hand at jewelry making. Procuring materials from a local hobby shop she began experimenting.
Contributing Artist: Narmin
Narmin was born in Baku, Azerbaijan and moved first to the United Kingdom for 2.5 years before finally traveling to the United States just a few weeks after 9/11. As Narmin explains, it was a difficult time but she moved here to be with her "wonderful, fun and handsome husband," Ken. "We are a perfect match. He is an engineer, musician and pilot. And I am an artist who has many ideas in need of encouragement and direction!" She enjoys living here. When asked what she likes the most, she replies: "Everything! The people, the culture, and most importantly the equal opportunities this amazing country offers for all people regardless of age, race, or background." Still, she misses her home--the food, her family and her beloved city Baku and the Caspian sea.
Narmin works on the Threads by Nomad team as a contributing artist; she paints one-of-a-kind silk scarves and collaborates with Nell and Christen on the designs. "I want to empower and adorn women. I am blessed to collaborate with Threads by Nomad as a designer of wearable art but most importantly as a person who believes in their vision to employ refugees with dignity."
Narmin leaned her craft--including classical art and fashion design--at the Azerbaijani State University of Culture and Art where she studied for six years. From the time she was 14 years old, she attended a private art studio where her mentor and teacher Arif Aziz prepped her for the Art Institute. It was only when she moved to the United States, however, that she taught herself how to work with silks and found her niche.
Beyond her remarkable artistic talents, Narmin speaks three languages and often sings at church accompanied by her husband on the guitar. She loves dance, Middle Eastern food, and to "help people in a meaningful, dignified way, like being a part of Threads by Nomad." Something else that might surprise people about her? Along with her Azerbaijani friend Tarana Lindsay, she co-hosts a television show called "Sweet Conversations" wherein she and Tarana share about their own experiences and their faith through art.
When asked about her family, she hesitates; she has many families now. Her family in Azerbaijan is big, loud and very close--not dissimilar to the family portrayed in My Big Fat Greek Wedding. She has stayed close to her two sisters despite the distance. Her American family includes her husband, Ken, of course and her niece Marjan who lives with her. Then there's Ken's family and her church family that has "loved, supported and held me close...through all the years I have been here."
Finances: Jackie Robinson
Jackie Robinson, our "Aunt Jackie," has known Nell since well before Christen was born. They attended the same church in Fort Worth, Texas in the early 1980s. This was the start of a lifelong friendship—a "framily." In 2017, Jackie and her husband, Jack, paid Nell and her husband, Butch, a visit around the holidays. As Jackie tells it to Christen, "Your mom was talking about how she was going to need a crash course in QuickBooks. Truthfully, I know your Mom and I know QuickBooks; the two are not a good pairing. This was also the first time in a long while I had been able to catch up with your mom and hear her tell us about Threads. I knew then, listening to her speak, that I wanted to help."
Jackie worked for a combined 14 years at two different churches as their business manager from 2003-2016. As part of this role, Jackie oversaw the organizations' finances, and in late 2017 began offering her experience, talents, and knowledge free of charge to Threads by Nomad.
|Since then, she has managed all of Threads' finances and eagerly took on the additional responsibility of managing The Off Ramp's as well when it launched in 2019. To say that Threads would not exist without Jackie is not an exaggeration. She has kept our business afloat and growing, and without her we would be lost. She may not be on marketing materials or even live in Houston, but she is an integral part of what we do, and we are grateful for her.
Jewelry: Adera Designs
Adera Designs is an Ethiopian company that believes in taking the ordinary and making it beautiful.They create jobs for mothers living in the Korah community and whose children attend the Adera Daycare. Each piece is lovingly made by hand from recycled materials and upcycled ammunition.
Accessories & Home Decor: Woven Promises
The mission of Woven Promises is to create economic partnerships through support of entrepreneurial efforts of talented, economically struggling people in the developing world. They form these partnerships through the fair purchase and resale of their products. The further goal of the partnership is to provide assistance to improve the quality of their lives and is based on a foundation of deep appreciation of their cultural heritage and traditional artisanry.
Accessories & Home Decor: The Esther Project
The Esther Project was created to help combat human trafficking in Kenya through the development of a market for handcrafted artisanal goods made by women who are in vulnerable situations. The Off Ramp assists The Esther Project with product development and quality control, as well as through the sale of their goods at ThreadsbyNomad.com. All of the products are handmade and each one is unique. By supporting The Esther Project's goods via Threads by Nomad, you are helping women in Kenya provide for their families.
Jewelry & Accessories: Haiti Design Co.
Haiti Design Co. was founded in 2014 with the goal to bring about sustainable development through design, training, and job creation. HDC houses and partners with production teams working in many types of artisan crafting, including leatherwork, sewing, jewelry making, aluminum casting, metal work, weaving, beadwork, horn & bone, tailoring, and shoe making. They work to provide consistent employment in-house in order to give job training and stability to individuals in vulnerable situations, as well as raise up artisan leaders to succeed as independent entrepreneurs in the community.
Home Decor & Seasonal: The Master's Handicrafts
The Master's Handicrafts is a for-profit, wholesale export business in the country of Kyrgyzstan dedicated to helping indigenous artisans develop markets in the Western world. Many of the women they buy from have learned the craft techniques from their mothers or grandmothers. They work together to create beautiful pieces of art while maintaining family relationships. The Master's Handicrafts has chosen not to form a guild of crafters working in a factory setting but rather buy from family groups who work from their home. This reduces their overhead and allows the women to care for their families and do their work at the same time.
Jewelry: Ajuna Designs
Ajuna Designs is Uganda's leading ethical jewelry business employing almost 400 single and vulnerable women. Purchasing Ajuna means you will not only be getting a beautiful product but also providing a vulnerable women with a job, putting children through school, and giving lifesaving medical care.