Kumbeshwar Technical School (KTS) is based in Kathmandu, Nepal. KTS employs 2,273 artisans who produce a collection of hand knitted and embroidered cardigans, jumpers, hats, gloves and scarves for People Tree. Artisans are mostly women who work part time for People Tree and can look after their children at the same time.

KTS was originally set up to help pode people, the so-called ‘untouchable’ caste in Nepal. Those born into the pode caste are expected to clean the sewers and streets of the areas inhabited by higher castes for no more than scraps of leftover food. The discrimination that keeps these people out of other forms of work even affects children, who may drop out of primary school because they are unable to fit in. Until recently, pode children did not go to school at all.

People Tree works with KTS to provide training and design support. Hand knitting not only makes a unique and beautiful products, it also provides women with the opportunity to work. Many of the artisans at KTS are mothers and university students who use their income to finance their – and their children’s – education and living costs.

In addition to providing good jobs for thousands of people, KTS puts profits from Fair Trade back into community development. KTS supports an orphanage and a school providing an education to over 250 children from low-income families. KTS provides underprivileged women, disabled people and widows with vocational training and job opportunities. KTS provides medical and social support, offers children’s and adult’s literacy classes and provides micro-credit loans.

KTS is part of the positive impact that is shifting attitudes throughout their community. Today street sweepers are becoming more aware of their rights and are charging a proper fee for their services – and their children go to school.

People Tree’s partnership with KTS has made a real difference in the community. According to Kiran Khadgi, Director of KTS:

“People Tree gives us orders continuously and supports us, giving us feedback on quality, products and design. We are so happy to be learning so much about product development, design, quality management and marketing and are acquiring lots of knowledge and new skills.
KTS’s mission is to provide free education to needy children and to provide vocational training with job opportunities for underprivileged women, disabled people and widows. Every year we have around 60 knitwear graduates. People Tree orders have provided jobs for 2,000 women and profits from Fair Trade help cover the running costs of the school.”

According to Ms. Laxmi, a knitter with KTS:

"People Tree's orders are vital to KTS, to me, my family, my colleagues and grass-roots female producers in my country. Fair Trade orders empower these people socially and economically and mean we can educate ourselves and our children. Knowing this inspires me to work hard. I wish and pray for the success of Fair Trade fashion and People Tree."

In March 2010, model Laura Bailey traveled to Nepal. She was inspired by meeting the artisans at KTS:

“I traveled to Nepal to see Fair Trade fashion in action. I loved meeting the hand-knitters and embroiderers, and being the first to try on a sample of work in progress. The surprises were all positive – the infectious joy of the children at school, the realisation of the direct impact of People Tree orders from the UK on remote rural Nepalese communities, and the true beauty of hand-made craft – be it a knitted jumper or scarf – extra special once you’ve met the person who made it!
How can you not care about the lives and working conditions of the producers of the goods we buy? Once you can imagine the human face behind the price tag it’s hard to justify buying cheap fast fashion.”

In 2010, People Tree collaborated with Karen Nicol, a renowned embroidery designer working with high fashion brands such as Jasper Conran. Karen Nicol designed a collection of hand knitted jumpers and dresses made by KTS in Nepal:

“I love traditional hand skills. A lot of my work is inspired by vintage pieces. That’s why I love working with People Tree as you are keeping these skills alive.”