AURA QUE was born from my love and curiosity of the making process, I’ve always loved being creative and making things.  Whether it’s birthday cards, new crafts or going on a random tour of a brick factory, I love to be curious, ‘hands on’ and to get stuck in!  Working collaboratively is central to my design process - truly understanding the materials, the techniques and the hard work that goes into making a beautiful product. 

I started AURA QUE in 2008 as a passionate (but naive) graduate, straight out of university on an adventure back to Kathmandu, having taught English there before my degree.  I felt drawn back by the warm and friendly nature of the Nepalese people, loving the country’s punch to the senses with colour, smells, and the cultural contrast to the UK.  A traditional fashion career didn’t appeal to me, sending designs off to a manufacturing plant where I had no connection with the people or process.  The pull of adventure was too strong and Nepal’s wealth of handicrafts were a young designer's dream!  I knew that the beautiful techniques they had mastered over generations would be loved in the UK and I set about developing a range of products and providing the makers with a route to market.  For a summer, I said yes to everything, met as many people as possible and was open to any collaboration and opportunity; I was in my element and this was the start of AURA QUE.

My favourite times have always been the workshops in Nepal; I love working with people, finding out how they ‘do life’, and what they are passionate about.  Over the years, I have met many of my producers’ families and been involved in their (numerous) festivals.  With my broken Nepali and their enthusiasm for English, communicating has always been a fun challenge.  I am grateful for this formative learning curve in my twenties, dealing with the cultural challenges of working as a lone woman in Nepal and India; learning to hold my own whilst being respectful of traditions and cultural considerations.  

Running a fair trade business is a constant struggle, keeping costs down whilst paying a fair price. There have been difficult times when I have always chosen to pay producers before myself.  There have been personal sacrifices where I have put my business responsibilities over relationships, hobbies or time for myself, giving everything I have (and more) to keep going.  I have found that the reality of running a business is that it is all-encompassing, it can be both a blessing and a burden! 

At times it feels like it has been two steps forward and one back for AURA QUE.  In order to push the business forward, I have lived a somewhat nomadic, thrifty lifestyle moving between London, Yorkshire and Kathmandu to make ends meet.  I have experienced 40 hour overland bus journeys from Delhi to Kathmandu with goats in the coach aisle to save money but, despite the struggles, it is a privilege to do this work! 

Having moved around so much, nowhere has truly felt like home, however on a whim in 2019, I moved to Hastings on the UK south coast - as geographically different as it could be from landlocked Nepal!  I have since gradually moved my business base here, relocating our warehouse and gradually building up a wonderful team in Hastings, from a new graduate to local parents needing flexible working hours. 

What’s next for AURA QUE...? We are hoping to open a shop to celebrate all things handmade, promote the UK high street and provide authentic experiences through workshops - as always, we will be striving to connect our customers to the origins of their products.

Laura Queening