One of our founding principles as an ethical brand, is to be a 'force for good'. It drives everything we do, and is why Free The Label was born - from a desire to do things differently. The inspirations for our designs are drawn from all over the world; travel, art and stories from the rich cultures of past and present.
Travel has always been a big part of my life growing up. My Mother travelled a lot in the 70's, exploring the rich heritage, design culture and warm energy of countries such as India, Pakistan and Afghanistan. Trips that subsequently shaped our family, and as such, the very passion I have today with Free The Label. In the spirit of nostalgia and solidarity with the people of Afghanistan, I felt inspired to share with you my Mother's memoir and recollections of travelling through this beautiful country and it's warm hearted people.
"In the 70's I was living in England, the world was a very different place then. Travelling was the thing to do. From England you could travel overland through countries like Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan, India and all the way to Nepal. Or you could do the journey through Syria or Iraq.
My boyfriend and I chose to travel the 'hippy trail' - a journey that took us from Istanbul overland to Afghanistan. We went all the way to Teran and then Afghanistan to Pakistan, then all the way to Kashmir in India. The entire trip on local buses - the experiences were beautiful and unforgettable.
Afghanistan was the most amazing and interesting place to me in those days (1973). The first town we visited was Herat - an amazing and incredible town. The place had 4 Minarets covered in mosaics. The whole town was made from mud walls with a bazaar in the middle with all the little houses and compounds. It was so colourful. There were hardly any cars, it was mostly horses and carts - fully decorated with pompoms and bells. The men who were riding had the turbans and beautiful outfits, the place was magic.
Every shop was full of treasures. The shops were bulging with antique vases, bags, jewellry, clothes - everything! We ended up spending quite a bit of time in Herat, staying in cheap hotels. The bakeries smelt amazing - baking the flat bread every morning. You couldn't help but go in. The little restaurants were amazing, low ceilings and fully carpeted with beautiful designs, food and incredible people.
In Herat, we were absolutely blown away by what we saw - people were so friendly when you were walking through the bazaar stalls and narrow little streets. We found the Afghan people very proud, they would talk to you but they weren't 'in your face' as such. They let you be, and were proud to have you as guests in your country. In fact, what happened later (we were travelling from Herat to another town) through the mountains. The bus stopped for everyone to get off and have chai tea and food from a little cafe, as we were about to pay the man from the counter said our drinks had already been paid for. We were confused as of course, we didn't know anyone. We said 'who paid?', and the man behind the counter pointed to an Afghan man over the road. We went over to thank him. He didn't want anything from us, he didn't want to know anything about us, where we came from or anything. He was purely thankful to have us visiting the country. And, in fact the same thing happened another time on our journey. This is the kind of people they were, very proud but not wanting anything from you, it was extraordinary.
Our next stop was Kandehar where we spent a few days. In those days, the 'fruit and veg bowl' of Afghanistan - green valleys, fruit and veg everywhere. Apricot trees, and beautiful produce. They were stunning textiles and embroidered bed coverings in all different colours in the hotels, even the cheap ones we stayed at.
We continued on to Kabul, the capital. It wasn't so pretty compared to Herat but it was very interesting. A river ran right through the middle of town. The river was flowing, clear, clean abundant, and beautiful. All around the sides of the river there were lots of little shops.
There were two well known streets, 'chicken street' and 'freak street' (because we were the freaks and hippies of the day, the travellers who would go there). This is where there were beautiful dresses to buy, that you saw all the women travelling wear. It was such a busy buzzy city. The gypsies of Afghanistan, the nomads, invited us to their tent (stunning and decorated with mirrors and hangings). The men wore beautiful turbans and the women beautiful jewelry. There were beautiful velvet dresses, even the kids had very lovely outfits. The people were so welcoming and warm.
My boyfriend and I then got the bus to Pakistan via the khyber pass - another amazing journey. The khyber pass was built by the British, it follows a river all the way from Kabul to Peshawar in Pakistan. Rugged mountain, lots of caves - absolutely stunning scenery. We got a local bus that broke down on the way. We all had to get off and sit by the river chatting and killing time while the driver fixed the tyre. He managed to fix it and get us all to Pakistan safely. An incredibly unforgettable journey through a truly magical country.”
The whole team at Free The Label are deeply saddened by the recent events in Afghanistan. We are personally, and as a brand, supporting the below NGO's who are on the ground working to rescue the most vulnerable Afghans. Join us in supporting these incredible NGO's who are on the ground providing much needed support to the Afghan people.
EMERGENCY.IT who provide medical support and first aid posts across the nation. Donate directly via this link.
MEDAIR.ORG who have been providing humanitarian aid to the region since 1996. Donate directly via this link.
This month we will donate a lump sum to each of these charities, as part of our 'Giving Back' scheme, and any purchases in-store or online will contribute to this.