Pashin' Fashion - Behind the scenes of a Christmas Market Stand
Chris and his wife Mateja I got to know as they stayed in on of our apartments for the time they are in Vienna. Well and I took the chance to interview him how the life is working on a Christmas Market in winter and on music festivals in summer. And what he is doing in the time in between.
Where were you born?
How would you describe your business?
Pashin’ is a small family business created by us, Mateja and Chris in 2010, in the lovely Slovenian hills on the sunny side of the Alps.
Pashin’ is short for “pashing”, Australian slang for french kissing. Our clothes are like pashing, deliciously unforgettable. But it also comes from “passionate” and we decided that if we follow our passion we would bring happiness to ourselves and others.
Pashin’ creations are inspired by ethnic art. The original and colourful woolly hats, gloves and scarves, are inspired by ancient tribal dot paintings from Australia, Africa and India, bringing the spiritual vibrations of this art into our clothing. Our woollen items are made from the softest New Zealand wool, by an expert knitting team of women artisans in the Himalayan foothills of Nepal. They all come together, talk, make jokes, sing and knit. So the production is made very personally. These knitting skills are getting rarer and rarer nowadays in Nepal, so it is a little bit hard to find good knitters.
For Summer, Pashin’ has unisex pants, skirts, dresses and shirts, some with aboriginal-art-inspired motifs. The mostly free-size clothes are made in Thailand from high-quality cotton and rayon.
We follow the fabrication of our clothes from selection of cotton, dyes, buttons and zips all the way to to the final sewing stage. So we can guarantee our fair trade and ecological principles are for real.
Pashin’ is about “slow fashion”, quality-based, not time-based. We work with well-paid local artisans, free from stressful deadlines (you can’t produce quality without time). We create exquisite artistic clothing and accessories that are ethically sound and super groovy at the same time.
What is special about your business and life?
We spent years living and travelling around the world. We both dropped into the university grinder and popped out debt-free. Mateja with a masters degree in business and I as a journalism school drop-out. To pay our way round the globe we did a lot of odd jobs. Most of them were really badly paid and temporary. We got the point, worklife is not always fun, but luckily we always had options. Something that clothing workers in Asia usually don’t have. In Asia semi-skilled garment work is often done under poor conditions and is far from fair for the worker. So we choose to make it differently.
We design and make clothes in Nepal and Thailand with small family businesses who treat their workers fairly and we return, for a few months every year, to work with tailors in their ateliers and small family-owned factories.
That way we are sure the original working conditions we inspected are still fair trade conditions. We also pay a little more for our tailoring, so we receive a much higher quality of clothes and both sides get a better quality of life. Everything is handmade.
Pashin’ follows the World Fair Trade Organization ten principles of fair trade.
But we wanted to go further and launched Pashin’ Sparks in 2014 in partnership with Maiti Nepal and founder, well-known social worker Anuradha Koirala in Kathmandu, Nepal. This is a project to pay for the higher education of formerly trafficked or at-risk young girls to a university degree level. Two girls were selected by Anuradha Koirala to win the scholarships offered by our little family business.
What is so special about the raw materials you use?
We only work with natural materials with 100 percent natural merino and lambs wool, cotton, and rayon. The natural materials are healthier and breathe better in summer and winter, feel nicer against the skin and are a pleasure to wear, lasting many years. We source our wool from New Zealand, where it is guaranteed cruelty-free and have it spun, dyed and hand-knitted in Nepal by women artisans in the countryside near Kathmandu.
Merino wool is a very special wool in that it insulates and adjusts to a wide range of temperatures, so it keeps you warm at minus 20 degrees and you can wear it up to about 20 degrees without heat getting trapped and causing perspiration on the skin. So the perfect material for the Austrians.
We avoid polyester or fleece inside our clothes wherever possible, and are slowly replacing fleece with merino inside our lambswool hats, because fleece is not a natural material and in fact is a petrochemical product which in the end destroys our environment.
As far as the cotton is concerned is our goal to fully head towards organic cotton as it is softer and healthier for you and the environment.
Some of our pants and dresses are made from Rayon. This is a very special cloth made from plant cells. We make our rayon pants and dresses in Thailand because a very high quality is produced there. We use the number one quality which has no polyester or petro-chemical blend, so it feels extremely soft, silky, and allows the air to flow through it. It also holds the colour well, without fading from washing or sunlight. Perfect for hot days!
So in November and December you stay in Vienna for the Christmas Markets, but what are you doing the rest of the year?
Right, in November and December we are in Vienna. At our stands at the Christmas Markets at the Altes AKH and at Spittelberg we sell hats, scarfes, gloves, handwarmers, jackets, legwarmers, long wraps for women (cardicapes) made of mohair, woollen wrap skirts….
We also have a summer production. In Nepal and Thailand there are a lot of people making cotton clothes. So we bring our designs to the tailor – Mateja is making their own designs – and then we match it with materials he has access to.
We spend a lot of time every year in Nepal as well, working with our tailors in small ateliers, perfecting Mateja’s innovative designs.
In summer we then take a van and drive from Slovenia and go to Germany, where every weekend there is a choice of many different music festivals. They all have their markets and there we sell our things.
Mateja runs some festivals, otherwise she is at home to look after our little daughter, organizes our new website, works on new clothing designs, takes care of the accounting, marketing, stock control and festival bookings, as well as overcoming Spanish slugs in her permaculture garden. Mateja is the heart and soul of Pashin’.
I go with a couple of friends to the festivals, so its really a kind of gypsy life during summer season.
Between late September and mid October we have time off where we are at home. From mid October on preparations for the Christmas Markets start and we receive the shippings from Nepal for the winter.
November and December we spend in Vienna for the Christmas Markets.
January I have off but in this time I do all the counting of the warehouse. February is Thailand – Bangkok and Chiang Mai working with the suppliers and in March the same in Nepal. April we have maybe one month off.
In May we receive the summer shipments and we kick off the summer season with friends. End of May beginning of June we start again with the festivals. June, July and August we are at the festivals. And then the cycle begins again.
How did it all began?
We are both artists – Mateja does 2D film animation and is a painter as well, and I am photographing with an analog camera. I spent several years in Asia catching the street life. Mateja also spent a lot of time travelling the wold, including Asia. And so I was thinking how to make a business from Asia. I knew there are many small companies and tailors doing an amazing work so I do not have to go to the large factories. As we are both interested in art and where especially touched with ancient dot painting we figured out how bring those two things together – fashion and the paintings.
So I connected with the suppliers in Nepal, especially in Kathmandu. And we started our business, even though we faced some difficulties in the beginning. This was 2010. Then we went back to Slovenia. We wanted to do the whole business online in the beginning, as we did not know that such markets at festivals and around Christmas even exist. Some friend then said to us that there is a Christmas market in Ljubljana. So we applied for it one week before it opened. Our luck was that the temperature dropped to minus 16 degrees and people were buying our hats like crazy. So it all began.
Well you are very busy during those two months you stay in Vienna. But what do you like to do in the rare time when you are not at the markets? What do you recommend?
I am quite into restaurants. So there are some places I really like. There is this small Italian one in Sigmundsgasse called Pizzeria Osteria da Giovanni where you get really good food at a decent price. www.giovanniwien.com
For good coffee I really like the Das Möbel. Lots of young people, organic food and good music. www.cafe.dasmoebel.at
For Indian food I like Zum Mogulhof. www.zummoghulhof.at
And for a really hearty, Austrian food, just go to Stiegl Brauambulanz in the Altes AKH. www.stiegl-ambulanz.com
With our daughter we have been at the aqua terra zoo, which is really cool especially with kids. www.haus-des-meeres.at
You see many things around the markets were we are.
Apart from that what I recommend – how can it be differently – visit the Christmas markets and enjoy this very special time of the year.