HOW CHAMPION KNITTER AND SIEN + CO. FOUNDER
ALEX GIBSON FOUND HER TRUE CALLING (AND EVENTUALLY HER LUGGAGE) IN KATHMANDU.
Story by Diana Keeler
After a challenging stint working as an event planner in Silicon Valley, Sien + Co. founder
Alex Gibson decided to make a sweeping life and career change. An amateur photographer, she
decamped for Nepal with a loose ambition of documenting the after effects of a devastating
earthquake outside the capital city of Kathmandu. But when her luggage was lost for 6 days,
Gibson had to remain in Kathmandu, and it was here that her future became clear. While
exploring the city Alex toured an artisans’ cooperative, and inspired by the talent and
skills of the knitters and weavers, decided to create her own line of luxurious handmade
knit apparel items and home furnishings. “I just had my Eat Pray Love moment,” Gibson says.
Unfortunately, a shortage of top-quality wool in Nepal meant Alex couldn’t work with the craftswomen she had met in Kathmandu. “To get high-quality wool, I would have had to import it and the economics of the endeavor wouldn’t permit that.” Determined to move forward, Alex reverse-engineered the process. She sourced the world’s best organic sheep’s wool from the highlands of Peru and dry forests of Argentina, and, partnering with Identidad Argentina, worked with a collective of regional weavers to craft her sustainably made, ethically produced designs. Many of these artisans are descended from generations of weavers, and their work gives life to centuries-old artistic traditions.
Today, sales of each handmade produce are divided evenly between paying the artisans, covering costs for packing, shipping, and materials, and supporting the business — a virtuous circle Gibson hopes will allow her to employ talented and creative workers, sustain her company, and fill homes with beautiful goods.
“I just can’t believe I work with such amazing
people,” Alex says. “My biggest hope is that I can go back and bring them more work.”