Sheela and Chris Adby met at a Zen meditation centre in India. Having run out of funds, Chris returned to England with some scarves to sell, and from this simple beginning, York Scarves was born. Later, Sheela joined him in York and now both travel to India regularly to develop their ranges and for Sheela to visit her family.
Most of their scarves and shawls are made in Bihar – one of the poorest places in India. 122 families are registered as members and the general structure is along cottage industry lines with different households specialising in different elements of production including tasseling, weaving, dying and finishing.
Sheela develops many new designs with her suppliers, including a simple netting scarf which can be made on a ‘handloom’ literally made from two pieces of wood and some nails. This enables people with no machinery resources – mainly single women – to earn a living.
Each year they visit their weavers and workers in India and work with them in all the processes involved in bringing their unique goods to the UK. Over time they have developed a close relationship with their suppliers that goes beyond business, and have seen family members married and new ones born in recent times.