The French brand with its heart in Nepal
In a sense, Melt is a French fashion brand – helmed by the impeccably chic Emma Garcin and Jeanne Biehn Sall, who previously worked for Hermès and Yohji Yamamoto. Yet the heart and soul of the company lies in a very different environment: Nepal, where every Melt scarf is woven by hand, using techniques passed down through centuries of craftspeople.
Emma was a young intern in Paris when she was first sent to Nepal to work in a cashmere factory. “I had literally no idea where I was going. I was nearly crying on the plane,” she recalls, laughing. “But I got there, and it was so colourful, so beautiful – people were so kind, and I just fell in love with the country and the work. Everything was possible.”
After eight months working in Nepal, she and a colleague, Tara Paneru, left to open their own workshop. “We wanted to manage it our way – to do something human, to help people,” she says. Once it was up and running, Emma and Jeanne, who had been friends since childhood, decided to launch Melt, a line of high-quality, fringed scarves that would all be produced there in Nepal.
“We wanted to manage it our way – to do something human, to help people.”
EMMA GARCIN, MELT SCARVES
Today, the factory employs 30 people; for Jeanne and Emma, what’s most important is that production is done under ethical conditions. “We made in-house social security, so our staff have a bit of money if they need to go to the hospital,” explains Emma. “Some weavers are from the countryside in Darjeeling, and so we hired their wives so that they can come together. We give them lodgings and food, and we try to do our best so that they feel secure and safe in their jobs.”
Emma now lives in France, but visits Nepal several times a year with her half-Nepali son. She knows the craftspeople well, and she and Jeanne name each scarf after a maker – so within their collection you’ll find names like Kumal Kumari, Sushma and Prabin.
It’s not unusual for 10 craftspeople to contribute to the making of a single scarf; each one requires a variety of skills, from the threading of the loom to the careful application of the fringe. By giving the products human names, the designers hope to communicate the human touch. “It was very important to show the customer that someone was behind each scarf, and that everything is done by hand,” says Emma. “If there’s a variation in colour, it’s because one day it rained and the dye changed slightly, for example. Any flaws are part of the beauty.”