Whenever I’m tempted by a certain retail item and my bank account is running DANGEROUSLY low, I always think to myself “I should buy it because it will help the economy and that way I’m ultimately helping society”. Nope, not accurate at all but it’s what I tell myself. Fortunately, with Knotty Gal this argument finally works.
As a multi-faceted brand it’s hard to know where to start with Knotty Gal. The actual jewelry is made up of incredibly intricate knots artfully crafted by Nur-E Gulshan Rahman, mother of co-founder Nur-E Farhana Rhaman, who was kind enough to sit down with us to talk knotty about her wares.
The knot skills you see are all Gulshan, who had originally started working in the garment district making knotted buttons and military jacket-inspired detailing, popular in the 1990’s and was actually so skilled that she began to train other women how to make them. Her detailing has been featured in the designs of Ralph Lauren, Donna Karan and Carolina Herrera, to name just a few. Gulshan’s craftiness, paired with Farhana’s eye for detail and design has created the amazing Knotty Gal products we see today.
But when talking to Farhana, it’s clear that this brand was not born out of a passion for jewelry, but based on an inspired family history. Farhana’s great grandfather had founded a girl’s school, the Bhandari Girls’ School in Bogra, Bangladesh, where Gulshan and a few of Farhana’s relatives had attended school.
“I was about ten years old or so and we went to visit the school and it was such a far cry from the stories that my mother used to tell me about when she had studied there,” recalls Farhana.
Located in an impoverished region, the school is reluctant to turn any girls away and as a result they keep the tuition (even by Bangladeshi standards) to a minimum. But with that accessibility comes sacrifice: due to lack of funds, classrooms have become overcrowded and resources are incredibly low.
“During Monsoon season-because they have holes in the roof, you cant even hold class sometimes. The electricity goes out all the time and there is no back up generator,” Farhana explains, “Ever since that visit, I knew I wanted to get involved with the school in one way or another.”
Farhana returned to Bangladesh after college where she earned her degree in Foreign Service. She was working as a contractor for the US Agency of International Development when she was sent to Bangladesh on business, and she went back to visit the school.
“It was my first time visiting as an adult and just seeing firsthand how really lacking it was and still is. It was different going as an adult with this background in international development and being able to ask the right questions. Chatting with the faculty and hearing about their needs, that’s what really got the ball rolling and was the impetus for finally taking action.”
And so Knotty Gal was born. Today 10-15% of each sale is donated to the girls’ school, and Farhana and her mother have already made some amazing accomplishments in and outside of Knotty Gal. Independently, Farhana and her family raised enough money to implement a new computer lab at the school, but with Knotty Gal were able to take that one step further:
“One of the biggest problems in development is that we build and build, but we don’t manage or maintain properly to ensure the most effective usage of what we implement. I did not want that to be the case with our computer lab, so with Knotty Gal—we signed a contract with the NGO BRAC and they are going to provide comprehensive introductory computer education training to the girls. It’s definitely a great start.”
There you have it, your shopping addiction doing good!
So who is the average Knotty Gal? “Our Knotty Gals have a fun sense of style and like a good statement piece. They care about their jewelry being a conversation starter and having a unique story. Knotty Gals like to understand their world through food, art, and travel. They care about social issues and their community , whether local or global, and want their clothing and jewelry to reflect that..”
See the article on Real Simple Lifestylers.