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 now for AURA QUE...? Our current focus is establishing our Hastings store, which opened in September 2022. Our aim is 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