Tengri: yak knitwear with a difference

Join the 'fairshare' fashion revolution. Help Mongolian herders, animals and the environment.

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Join the 'fairshare' fashion revolution. Help Mongolian herders, animals and the environment.

Tengri is a British fashion label and collective movement that brings together design, fashion, ethics, business, environmental activism and individual consumer choice to do good.

We aspire to bring Mongolian yak wool to the forefront of the fashion industry. Yak wool is as soft as cashmere, warmer than merino wool, hypoallergenic, environmentally friendly, sustainable and 100% natural and undyed.

We aim to preserve the Mongolian landscape and support the nomadic herders' way of life, which is threatened by rapid industrialisation and land degradation.

Tengri knitwear composit

When you support Tengri, you help:

People – More than 1,000 nomadic herder families are represented by the cooperatives that supply our yak wool through sustainable herding. Not only do we purchase the wool at fair-market prices, we aim to provide a ‘fairshare’ of Tengri profits.

Wild animals – Help stop wild yaks and snow leopards from being ‘fashion victims’ by choosing a sustainably sourced yak wool.

The environment – Help stop land erosion by purchasing Mongolian yak wool knitwear, a sustainable and eco-friendly alternative wool.

Global trade opportunities- We foster trade opportunities for small companies in Mongolia and the UK and ship globally to customers.  Purchases help to protect people, the environmental and animals.

Innovative, creative and multi-dimensional events - Our innovative events involve partnerships with like--minded organisations ranging from fashion, music, culture, dance and environmental activism to improve the lives and livelihoods of Mongolian nomadic herders, while protecting the country’s beautiful traditions and unique landscape and pastures.

Tsetserleg festival

Our manifesto

Tengri Manifesto

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Introducing Tengri 

Tengri was founded by Nancy Johnston, a former health and social care worker who was inspired to start a social enterprise while travelling with friends and staying with Mongolian herder families. She became fascinated by the delicate and interwoven relationship between people, animals and the land, developing a deeper understanding and respect for the bond between the herder families’ livelihoods, their yaks, and the Mongolian landscape.

Nancy Johnston with young mongolian girl

Nancy discovered that Mongolian nomadic herders’ traditional way of life is threatened by rapid industrialisation and land desertification, often caused by the over-intensive grazing of cashmere goats to supply the fast-growing demand for cashmere clothing.

She also found out that Mongolian herders supply much of the world’s cashmere for the luxury textiles market, but were still in need of government handouts to subsist, despite a thriving export industry.

Armed with her modest life savings and the support of an extended network of friends in fashion, design, community development, marketing, business and product development, Tengri was born to fight this injustice and offer the world a sustainable and fashionable alternative to cashmere.

A radical 'fairshare' fashion revolution begins

With her modest life-savings, Nancy set out to buy yak wool at fair market prices directly from the Mongolian yak herders and cut out the middleman. Taking the start of the business one radical step further, Nancy set out to build an aspirational fashion label where business profits are shared fairly by the cooperatives who supply the wool, giving away 45% ownership of the company. 

Determined to not be a high-end fashion label that exploits people, animals or the land, the company is establishing itself as a cooperative, to be membership owned by those involved in creating and shaping it.

The word ‘Tengri’ was synonymous with ‘sky’ to the people of ancient Central Asia. It also referred to a pantheon of gods associated with natural phenomena, governing all existence on earth.

Why Mongolian yak wool?

herders combing a yak

Mongolian yak live at high altitudes and endure harsh winter conditions. This means they produce a robust and unique wool, which is as soft as cashmere, warmer than merino wool, odour-resistant, breathable and less prone to pilling and fluffing than other fibres. Yak wool knits beautifully, like cashmere or lambswool, but it is surprisingly stronger, and just as soft. It's a real treat to feel it in your hands. 

This precious wool can be sourced only by hand-combing each yak individually, once a year, when the yak shed their winter coats. 

The problem is that the world doesn’t know much about the amazing qualities of yak wool, or that it’s a sustainable and eco-friendly alternative to cashmere. In Mongolia, the intensive grazing of cashmere goats has degraded much of the pasture, threatening the long-term livelihoods of nomadic herders as well as the environment and the wild animals that live in it. Yak wool can be produced without intensive grazing, which is why it plays such an important role in protecting Mongolia’s natural landscape.

Why Tengri knitwear?

Mongolian female and male models in Tengri yak seaters

Fashion shouldn’t cost the earth. We believe being eco-friendly goes beyond minimizing any adverse effects on the environment. It’s about working with suppliers to improve the entire ecosystem and spreading the word so customers can make better-informed choices. 

Our concept of eco-friendliness involves long-term thinking about the ecology, economy, and people of Mongolia. We want to improve the wider ecosystem through a sustainable, virtuous and socially minded business model, while also producing beautifully designed garments made with quality British craftsmanship. 

And we want to make it as easy as possible for you to use your purchasing power to do good and show that eco-fashion should be the norm, not an alternative.

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Tengri in the news

Discover what others are saying about Tengri:

Small steps to start a big revolution - Start Up Connections, 12 Nov 2014

One to watch: Tengri - Where's Me Jumper, 24 Oct 2014

From charity worker to business owner - The Next Woman, Business Magazine, 16 Oct 2014

Fashion spotlight: Q&A with Nancy Johnston, Founder of Tengri - Political Style, 10 Oct 2014

''Blink'' New designers: Tengri - Blink London, 8 Oct 2014

Yak's wool social enterprise set to rival cashmere - telegraph 20 Sept 2014 

Find your inner compass - Female Entrepreneur Association, 9 Sept 2014

Luxury brand inspires environmental change in Mongolia - Mongolia Economy & Finance, 14 Aug 2014

Yakmere: Mongolia's latest export - This Because, 8 August 2014

Tengri: A fashion brand like no other - The Resident, 30 July 2014

Inspirational Women: Nancy Johnston CEO & Founder of Tengri - We Are the City, 21 July 2014

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Why we need your support

We’re on Crowdfunder for more than fundraising. We want to connect directly with people like you, who want to make a positive difference.

The unfair, unethical and environmentally harmful and unsustainable fashion industry needs to CHANGE. Tengri is an aspirational fashion label that represents what fashion industry CAN and SHOULD be.

Since March 2014, we’ve worked incredibly hard and at lightning speed to source the wool, design and launch our ‘Warrior’ collection in time for winter. Our garments are ready for manufacturing and production, but at this last stage of creating Tengri yak knitwear, we need your help to make it happen. We cannot do it alone. 

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Our Goals and Impact

- At £40,000 we can put into production our ‘Warrior’ collection, stock our online shop, ship our products internationally and retail with stockists in London, New York, Los Angeles and Ulaanbataar.Impact: We can make an advance payment to the nomadic herder families before the wool is available and when there is no tourism to earn income from. This supports them during the coldest winter months of January-March and improves the financial security of nomadic families, who can only sell their wool once a year.

- At £60,000 we continue our annual environmental conservation efforts by working with herder families, young volunteers and our partners at RockCorps to keep the Tamir River in western Mongolia clean and free from debris, and celebrate conservation efforts with a festival for the wider community.Impact: People from different backgrounds are connected with nomadic herders in the Arkhangai province, fostering a sense of community through shared experiences of social responsibility and environmental activism. People, wild animals and yaks can enjoy a debris-free Tamir River. 

- At £100,000 we can expand on our inventory offering, and begin working with camel herder families in the Gobi Desert to offer camel wool in our collection.Impact: We expand our work across Mongolia and help add another 500+ nomadic camel herder families to be supported through Tengri.

- At £150,000+ you can really start to change the fashion industry for good and further our conservation efforts.Impact: We stabilize our business and truly support 1,500 herder families in a virtuous, sustainable and environmentally friendly way.

There are not many garments you can purchase that help protect people, animals and the environment, but Mongolian yak wool knitwear CAN make a difference. From as little as £10, or as much as £10,000, every contribution helps. Please pledge your support.

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Quality and style: made in the UK

We don’t compromise on quality. That’s why we’re working with a highly experienced team of expert knitwear manufacturers and a cooperative of handknitters in Hawick, Scotland – a town famous for quality knitwear since the 18th century – to create our debut collection. 

We work with Imtaz Khaliq, MBE and Udo Omire who are recognized master tailors in London. With a combined experience of more than 50 years of tailoring experience, they produce Tengri coats, trousers and exclusive one of kind pieces.

The result is a stunning range of clothing that looks great and feels fantastic. This collection is now ready to go into production – and with your help, we can make it happen.

Sizing

Most of our accessories such as socks and gloves come in standard UK/US/EU women and men's sizes (S, M, L).  For all our made-to-order garments, we will contact you for your size to make sure we create a garment that fits you perfectly.

Colours

All Tengri garments are made of undyed yak wool, so they are available in all-natural colours: chocolate brown, grey and tan.  

When you have chosen your Tengri Reward, we’ll be in touch to confirm your preferred style, colour selections and size.

How to pledge

Simply hit the 'pledge' button at the bottom of this page and choose from a range of pledge amounts and associated Rewards. UK delivery is included in the Reward price. For international pledges, please add £15 to the Reward amount.

You will need either a debit or credit card to pledge. Your details will be taken and funds will be withdrawn ONLY if the fundraising target is reached.  

Anyone from anywhere in the world can pledge. You do not have to be a UK resident or in the UK.

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Rewards

'Thank you': £10

Receive a big public 'thank you' from the Tengri team on your Facebook and/or Twitter page.

'Thank you' note: £15

Receive a handwritten ‘Thank You’ note on a limited-edition postcard from the Tengri Team – every contribution helps, thank you!

 Tengri signed postcard

'Thank you' & set of five limited-edition postcards: £25

Get a personalised 'Thank you' and a complete set of five limited-edition postcards.  

postcards

 Hand-combed, handspun yak wool knitting yarn, 100g: £25

Create your own super-soft yak knitwear with this 100% natural, undyed, hand-combed and hand-spun Mongolian yak wool yarn. Suitable for 5mm knitting needles (100g).

 knitting yarn yarns

Mongolian Bling, Special Edition DVD + Sountrack: £30

Mongolian Bling is an exploration of traditions, history, western influence, music, culture and the search for identity of the country’s youth. The story is told through the beats and rhymes of three young rappers; Gennie, Gee and Quiza.

Get your hands on this Special Edition DVD with bonus soundtrack featuring 15 tracks from Mongolian artists: Gennie, Gee and Quiza. This reward is limited to 50 signed copies of the movie from Benj Binks, the director and filmmaker himself who has pledged his support to help nomadic herder families in Mongolia.

Mongolian Bling dvd cover-group

Warrior gloves: £50

Fight off the cold weather and keep your hands and fingers warm with these super-soft and luxurious yak wool gloves. Available in solid chocolate brown, tan (not pictured) or two toned.

Tengri gloves brown  Tengri gloves

Warrior socks: £60

An exquisite treat for your feet. Slip these heavenly yak wool bed socks over your feet to keep off the chill. Available in two styles, in your choice of grey or brown.

Warrior beanie: £70

This very soft, comfortable and luxurious ribbed beanie with turn-up is a treat to wear to fend off the cold. Available in chocolate brown or tan.

Limited-edition A3-sized Indigo print: £80

Iconic Tengri images of the beautiful Mongolian winter landscape, including herders hand-combing their yak, and yaks in a snowstorm. Pick one of these four prints. Only 10 prints of these 4 images will ever be made available.

Tengri photo prints

Warrior rib scarf: £130

This Mongolian yak wool scarf is a great finishing touch for any outfit, as well as keeping you warm. Available in chocolate brown, two-toned or tan. At 190cm long and 25cm wide, it will keep you warm and comfortable in style.

Tengri brown scarfTengri scarf  Tengri scarf

Warrior shawl / throw: £160

Wrap yourself in this warm, soft and stylish garment. This shawl doubles as a throw – a timeless piece. Available in shades of chocolate brown, tan and grey.

Tengri shawl

Warrior Gauntlet sweater (Hand knitted and custom made to order): £500 

This fitted women's textured rib, crew neck sweater is an essential piece of winter armoury to add to your wardrobe. This sweater is hand knitted and custom made to order. Available in grey, tan or chocolate brown.

Tengri Gauntlet knitwear

Hand-knitted yak wool Schynbald sweater (Hand knitted and custom made to order): £650 

Stand out from the crowd in this exquisitely handknitted, custom made to order, chunky cabled, roll-neck unisex sweater. This beautifully made piece is available in chocolate brown or tan. 

Insignia jacket (Hand-crafted custom made to order): £850  

A classic winter coat, tailored in London. Single breasted, with two front pockets, this garment is made of 100% natural and undyed soft yak wool fabric.

Chevron jacket (Hand-crafted custom made to order): £950 

This Chevron pattern knee-length coat is the perfect way to keep warm and stylish this winter. A unisex piece in 100% natural and undyed yak wool fabric, single breasted with two lower-front pockets. Comes with belt (not pictured).

Exclusive one-off bespoke yak wool suit, designed and made by Imtaz Khaliq: £3,500 

Imtaz Khaliq MBE has been named by Cosmopolitan as one of the four top tailors in London. She was awarded an MBE for her services to the fashion industry in the 2010 New Years Honours list. Her award-winning tailoring business based in a Georgian town house in Islington, and formerly based in Bond Street, has been established for 20 years. Celebrity clients include: Cheri Blair, Dina Carroll, actress Michelle Pfeiffer, newsreader Kay Burley and Mishal Husain and supermodel Tatjana Pattiz.

Super model - Tatiana Pattiz  Imtaz OBE  

Tengri Festival 2015 - VIP Pass: £6,000

Includes a custom-designed Tengri original garment, created just for you. Join the Tengri team for an all-access VIP fashion, music, culinary and cultural experience at the 2015 Tengri Festival in London. Complete with a private dinner party in London with the team as our esteemed guest of honour.

Tengri festival VIP pass

Cycle adventure of a lifetime: £5,000

Experience travel in a completely new way. Join Nancy, Tengri founder and an avid cyclist, and a support crew of close friends on the ride of your life. The adventure starts in Ulaanbaatar, the Mongolian capital, from where we cycle 460km to Tsetserleg. On this supported cycling trip of a lifetime, you will experience a unique landscape and stay with nomadic families. Take in the breathtaking endless blue skies and see wild animals roaming the land. You can even help with the hand-combing of a yak! This truly unique way of travelling is something you will never experience anywhere else, or with anyone else. This Reward is limited to three reasonably fit people. At Tsetserleg, our final destination, you will join the rest of the Tengri Team to celebrate the 2015 Tsetserleg Festival in Arkhangai, Mongolia. This reward requires a minimum of eight days in August/September 2015. Exact festival dates and cycling days to be confirmed.

Become the ultimate Warrior: £10,000

Have three custom-designed Tengri original garments made just for you. Join the Tengri team for an all-access VIP fashion, music, culinary and cultural experience at the 2015 Tengri Festival in London. Join the team at a private dinner party in London as a celebrated Tengri Warrior.

            

Tsetserleg Fashion Show Sponsorship: £15,000

Become the official partner and sponsor of the 2015 Tsetserleg Fashion Show in Mongolia. Work with the Tengri team for high-profile media opportunities around this unique fashion show, which takes place in a stunning landscape under endless blue skies.

  catwalk-Tsetserleg 3014 CAtwalk -2014 Tsetserleg

Eco-Warrior: Tamir River Clean-Up Corporate Sponsorship package: £20,000

Working in partnership with RockCorps (“Give, Get Given”) and Arkhangai Federation of Pasture User Groups, young volunteers spend a day cleaning up a 16km stretch of the Tamir River in Arkhangai province of Mongolia. Become the ultimate eco-warrior by taking pride of place as the official sponsor of this very important environmental conservation effort. Your brand will be featured in all marketing, media and communications relating to this event, as well as the opportunities for staff to attend and participate directly in conservation efforts and get to know the young volunteers.

Tamir River Clean Up

Festival Champion: 2015 Tsetserleg Festival Corporate Sponsorship package: £40,000

Does your brand support multi-cultural events, creative arts, local traditional crafts, music, animals and more? Why not take pride of place as an official sponsor where your brand will be featured in all marketing, media and communications relating to the annual Tsetserleg Festival? Worlds collide at this unique festival, which takes place in a stunning landscape under endless blue skies, featuring some of Mongolia's top musicians. This unique event is a  truly magical festival bringing the best of the music festival traditions of the west with traditions of the east to feature Mongolia's prized yaks.

Tsetserleg Festival Lights at Tsetserleg

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Meet the team

Team Pic

Nancy Johnston, CEO & Founder

Carlo Volpi, Director of Design and Co-founder 

Winnie Lee, Director of Brand and Art and Co-Founder

Ed Rendell, Copywriter, Strategist and Co-Founder 

Davide Barbieri, Creative Hair Stylist and Make-Up Artist 

Christian Smith, Sustainability Advisor

Michelle Chan, Legal Advisor

Susan Horncastle, HR and Administrative Manager

Misheel Oyunaa, Events Coordinator

Mark Gettinby, Business Development Advisor

Jonathan 'aka Barney' Macklin, Information Systems Guru 

Christine de Leon, Champion

Alice Wilby, Champion 

Miss Baby Sol, Tengri Ambassador

Quiza, Tengri Ambassador

And the extended Tengri community of people involving our partnership with the herder families in Mongolia, manufacturers in Scotland, makers in London, friends at RockCorps, bookabeat, SDC Mongolia, Funk da Cirque and our family, friends, dancers, artists and supporters dotted around the world who have helped us along the way...you know who you are. 

Tengri Festival

Why support Tengri?

• Because you’re looking for high-quality, super-soft knitwear.

• Because you believe fashion shouldn’t harm our environment, people or animals.

• Because you want to support Mongolian nomadic herders’ traditional way of life.

• Because you want to help stop the desertification of the Mongolian landscape by over-intensive grazing.

• Because you want to support social entrepreneurialism.

• Because you believe in supporting quality manufacturing and craftsmanship.

• Because your contribution can make ‘fairshare’ business practices a reality.

• Because we can collectively create a revolution and change the fashion industry for the better.

Take part in creating more than just a fashion label. 

Timing

Dec 14 Postcards, knitting yarns & limited-edition picture rewards mailed out   Knitwear manufacturing begins (4-6 weeks)   Design & sourcing of Tengri packaging and labelling   Sizes & quantities confirmed by backers Jan 15 Printing of packaging & labelling   Tailoring of suits begins   Search for Tengri HQ in London   Design of next collection begins   Confirmation of yak wool for next collection Feb 15 Manufactured knitwear garments & packaging completed   Suit fittings arranged   Rewards shipped out Mar – May 15 Prototyping & sampling of next collection Jun – Jul 15 Yak combing season starts Aug 15 Wool to processing company for washing & de-hairing, yarn spinning   Tengri Tsetserleg Festival & Fashion Show Sep 15 Knitwear manufacturing of next collection begins   London Fashion Week & Design Week   Tengri Festival & Fashion exhibition

Spread the word and stay connected with Tengri

Connect with Tengri on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, Google+

Risks and challenges

Our manufacturing partners are ready for production. We have planned every detail of our production, but we know that unexpected events can occur in the manufacturing process. You can be safe in the knowledge that if any issues do arise, we will always share the latest news with you, and keep you fully informed about what we’re doing to resolve them.

FAQs

Cashmere is widely worn by a lot of people. How is it responsible for land erosion?

The demand for cashmere has increased dramatically during the last 25 years. This has driven a significant increase in the number of cashmere goats being farmed intensively in Mongolia, resulting in damage to grasslands and contributing to desertification. With less pasture on which to graze their animals, nomadic herders find their livelihoods threatened.

How is yak wool a sustainable and eco-friendly alternative?

Yak wool is a sustainable alternative to cashmere because it can be produced without intensive grazing, so it helps protect Mongolia’s natural landscape. Yak wool shares many of the qualities of cashmere: it is just as soft, warmer than merino wool, odour-resistant, breathable and less prone to pilling and fluffing than other fibres.

Why is the future of wild animals in Mongolia under threat?

The desertification of the Mongolian landscape means there is less grassland on which wild animals can graze. If they cannot eat, these animals have no future.

Who makes Tengri garments? And where? And how?

All Tengri knitwear and accessories are made in the UK. We’re working with expert knitwear manufacturers in Hawick, Scotland, to produce our debut collection. Our handknitted sweaters are made by a cooperative of handknitters in rural Scotland, while expert tailors in London create our trousers and coats.

How exactly do you source your wool?

Nancy Johnston, who founded Tengri, travels to Mongolia to buy our yak wool direct from herders’ cooperatives.

What relationship do you have with your manufacturers?

We’re working very closely with makers who have different skills – knitwear manufacturers in Hawick, Scotland; handknitters in rural Scotland, and tailors in London – and we’re learning a lot from them! It’s a privilege to work with such experienced people, who are all so generous with their expertise.

Do the herders obtain the wool in an animal-cruelty free manner?

Yes. Each yak is hand-combed individually during the springtime, when they begin to lose their winter coats. This means that only loose yak hair is removed, leaving the animal ready for the warm summer.

How closely do you work with the yak herder community?

We work in close partnership with two cooperatives, which represent more than 1,000 herder families in Mongolia. This ensures that herders get a fair deal for their product.