Live Softly


The Ups and Downs of Sustainable Design Thinking....

It's only day three in Nepal and I have already been though so many waves of emotion, so many learning curves and ups and downs regarding the project and my intentions for it. I've asked questions, I've had questions answered, and then asked some more...

I teach sustainable design in Sydney and recently taught a co-lab class on social enterprise design to 14 students from Sri Lanka and 14 students from Sydney. I like to think I am fairly well versed on the pros and cons of sustainable design and the ethical questions raised in producing goods and employing staff.  My prime intention in coming to Nepal was to see if my project really was contributing benefits to the people employed by the program, how did I know that there wasn't someone at the top giving themselves a big pay cut? And was giving the happy soulful people of Nepal work really what they needed - wasn't that just inflicting them with the same consumer-led disease that has consumed the West?

Well after taking to lots of people with different experiences today I had many of my questions answered, and while I am sure that isn't the end of the questions I can happily say that Live Softly is going ahead with renewed vigour and good intention. So let me explain to you a little of my thought process over the past three days...

elise slater
Live Softly in Nepal 2017

It's been two years since I visited Nepal, since the serendipitous events on a hilltop in Kathmandu when Live Softly was born.  In the two years since I visited Nepal had a devastating earthquake that killed 9000 people and later that same year had debilitating strikes put on its borders by India, resulting in queues 5km long for necessities such as medical supplies, petrol and food.    It hasn't been easy for the Nepalese people, but in spite, and maybe because of this the smiles you see on the people in Nepal are some of the most joyful you will see anywhere in the world.

The auspicious Boudha Stupa on the Dalai Lama's Birthday July 2017

The auspicious Boudha Stupa on the Dalai Lama's Birthday July 2017

Live Softly was on hold while Nepal got back on it's feet after the earthquake, and I told the makers that when they were ready after the strikes  I would place an order for my first hundred laptop cases. It began as a passion project, something to keep that auspicious link to Nepal alive, and to honour my promise to the makers & the charity that the project supports. 

With my first order placed and paid for I approached my dream stockists - the MCA (Museum of Contemporary Art) and Koskela - who to my delight both placed orders immediately, and so, in October 2016 Live Softly appeared on store shelves in Sydney.

Other lovely retailers soon approached me to stock Live Softly including Ukiyo store in Tasmania, Paulista Gallery in Sydney, Timber & Tailor Shop in Canberra, Neon Boulevard in London & The Art Gallery of South Australia.

The product took on a life of its own and things started to flow, the Live Softly ethos seemed to resonate with people in Australia and with store owners, and I continue to receive lots of lovely emails from people who are touched by the product's story and by their daily interaction with the cases. 

As a passion project Live Softly has continued steadily over the last 9 months and I have been able to place consistent orders with Nepal each month, a small but not in-significant contribution for a land-locked country that needs as much support as it can from the outside.  

And so I pondered whether to put more energy in to Live Softly, to grow the project further, and decided the only way to know that was to re-visit Nepal and the makers of Live Softly and see how the project can best benefit the craftspeople and their families and the Leprosy charity that Live Softly supports.

And so here I am, after an arduous flight and bumpy roads, with lots of questions and curiosity and ideas, arriving in Nepal on the Dalai Lama's 82nd Birthday ready to see what serendipity and magic Nepal has in stall for Live Softly....

“Our Prime Purpose In This Life Is To Help Others. If You Can’t Help Them, At Least Do Not Hurt Them” - THE DALAI LAMA

Big Love from hot and rainy Nepal,

xx Elise

The children of the Live Softly craftspeople in the childcare facilities provided for the makers, July 2017

The children of the Live Softly craftspeople in the childcare facilities provided for the makers, July 2017

elise slater