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How this fashion brand pivoted to give back during the COVID-19 Pandemic

Anna in Bhutan, a high-end ethical and sustainable fashion brand based in New York City, has since pivoted their line from their scarves to protective masks.  Their production features unique, stylish, handwoven scarves – crafted by talented women weavers in Bhutan.  The Anna in Bhutan mission is to support Bhutan’s ideology, spirituality, and the respect it […]

Anna in Bhutan, a high-end ethical and sustainable fashion brand based in New York City, has since pivoted their line from their scarves to protective masks.  Their production features unique, stylish, handwoven scarves – crafted by talented women weavers in Bhutan. 

The Anna in Bhutan mission is to support Bhutan’s ideology, spirituality, and the respect it gives to its people. Bhutan is leading a path against climate change AND Bhutan is the only carbon- negative country in the world. Sustainability is a very important aspect of our brand, and of course sustainability is important now more than ever.  

So why the change from scarves to masks?  Founder Kate Broug felt like what better time to give back to the community than now.  Read on for more on Kate, her brand Anna in Bhutan’s new line of masks and how to stay safe during this pandemic.

Tell us about the Anna in Bhutan pivot from halting production to COVID-19 masks?


Kate Broug (KB): The pivot from scarves to COVID-19 masks is a natural evolution of our brand and is in line with our company values. When this pandemic struck, we asked ourselves how we could be of use, and we realized that we can transform our beautiful handmade fabrics into something helpful in this situation. It also helps us support our neighbors in New York by donating part of the proceeds of each mask to the NYC Food Bank, to help families in need during this challenging period. They are in desperate need of aid during the hunger surge caused by COVID19.

The scarves and masks at Anna in Bhutan are blessed in Bhutan – can you share more about what that blessing is?

Kate Broug (KB): Of course! After the weaving process, the scarves and masks are brought to a Buddhist temple in the valley of Thimphu, Bhutan’s capital, where they are blessed by highly revered monks in a unique 2.5-hour ceremony. During our trip to Bhutan with our film crew to document the story of Anna in Bhutan, we were allowed to attend a blessing ceremony. Witnessing it first-hand was a unique and humbling experience. The monks firs cleanse the scarves (which have now been made into our masks), and then infuse them with good luck, harmony, and positivity, all the while chanting continuously in cadence. The chanting was one of the most moving sounds I ever heard. Being in that space at that time, it felt like time disappeared.

Designers such as Christian Siriano kicked off this fashion to medical movement – why are masks most important now and for the foreseeable future?

Kate Broug (KB): I believe masks will probably be part of our daily lives for the foreseeing time. This pandemic has made us more and more aware of the transmission of bacteria and viruses. Masks give us a sense of security and protection. I think we’ll see that masks will become the new accessory. Even though the masks cover a large part of our face and are functional, we still want to look good in them, and there is an opportunity to express ourselves through our masks. I think masks will become the new fashion statement, and I believe that soon we’ll start seeing them appear on the runway. As a brand, we want to accommodate this shift.

Where will proceeds from the masks be donated?

Kate Broug (KB): While identifying organizations, we wanted to select a cause that has a direct impact on people who are struggling during this period. We decided to support the New York City Food Bank, which was the most concrete and hands-on cause we could find, helping to feed our neighbors in need right here in New York. The $1 donation from the proceeds of each mask funds 5 meals for people affected by the hunger surge caused by the pandemic.

What makes the masks unique?

Kate Broug (KB): The masks carry Anna in Bhutan’s story with them. They are made with unique fabrics and have an inspiring story behind them. They stand for Bhutan’s ideology, they looking elegant and luxurious, and are the perfect conversation starter. Wearing an Anna in Bhutan mask gives the carrier a hint of style, and a pop of color and that something extra.

During quarantine, what does a typical day for you look like?

Kate Broug (KB): A typical day for me is filled with work and projects. I wake up around 7.30 AM and start my day with a shower and a bowl of oatmeal. Then I get ready for work. The rest of the day is stacked with Zoom calls, emails about Anna in Bhutan, preparation for episodes of my podcast, The Pivotal Moment, which will interview 100 of the leading women entrepreneurs in New York, and organizing a networking group of a group of interesting women. 

I like to work with a couple of very small breaks: I just work better that way! In the evening, I have to set boundaries about when I finish work. There is always work to do, but it’s important to not overstretch myself — something I have learned by trial and error. It’s very tempting to just keep on going, especially during this time of confinement. At our recent network group remote meeting, we talked about how we feel that we should be using this time to prove we are the talented entrepreneurs that we hope we are, and how intimidating that is. I try to let that thought go. Around 8 PM I have dinner (I either cook or order in), make time to contact friends and family, and then I take a long bath.

During quarantine, are there any “things” you are looking to take up or do? 

Kate Broug (KB): I’ve been doing a lot of reading, and I’ve been catching up with old friends and members of my family I haven’t spoken to in a while. It’s wonderful to rekindle those relationships! I’ve also been listening to the chanting’s of the Anna in Bhutan blessing ceremonies, and I meditate to their chanting. These amazing tracks are available for download on the Anna in Bhutan website.

I’m spending a lot of time with Cosmo (my cat), and I have launched a podcast called The Pivotal Moment in which I interview 100 of the most inspiring and powerful women entrepreneurs in NYC. In this weekly podcast, we talk about their lives and how they deal with success and entrepreneurship. It’s an incredibly motivating project. Each woman has her own inspiring journey to share. 

I’m learning something new every day and, being an entrepreneur myself, I’m very motivated me by these role models. I’m very excited to share their stories with the world, and especially with women who aspire to entrepreneurship. I also organize a bi-weekly women’s network Zoom meeting with a group of inspiring and cool women, in which we check up with each other and show support during this challenging time.

Staying mindful right now is vital for your health and sanity – what are you doing to do so?

Kate Broug (KB): The most challenging thing of all is that my home is now also my office! It can be hard to make the same space change in purpose. To make that conscious shift, I start every day as I would before the pandemic: I get ready and dress as if I would on a normal day before leaving the house for work. I make sure I’m presentable, and even though it might sound silly to dress up at home, it lifts me out of the “home” vibe and puts me into working mode. I sit behind my dining table with a cup of coffee, my water bottle, and sometimes my shoes on, to feel more grounded. 

When I finish work at the end of the day I make sure to take care of myself. I vacuum the house, I exercise in my living room, take a bath, and make sure I eat healthily. I end the day by either setting up a FaceTime call with friends and family or by watching a documentary about an inspiring person.

Now that there is more time to spend on social media, are there any accounts/ female entrepreneurs, etc who you are following? If so – tell us why you like their account?


Kate Broug (KB): Lately, I’ve been asking myself more and more about who my female role models are. I’m embarrassed to say that my entrepreneurial role models were mostly male! This is one of the key reasons I started The Pivotal Moment podcast. I have already interviewed a lot of inspiring women and am growing a pool of female role models who have established themselves in the current entrepreneurial climate. My hope is to interview influential female business owners such as Arianna Huffington, Tory Burch, Kelley Wrestler, and Oprah Winfrey, to discuss how they built their business as a woman. 

I also find it incredibly inspiring to read up or watch documentaries about women who pioneered in their field back in the days. Women like Amelia Earhart, the first woman in aviation to fly solo across the Atlantic Ocean, and Coco Chanel, because of her bravery, and confidence to follow her innovative fashion style.

With your sales online, have you heard any moving or emotional stories from those who have purchased?

Kate Broug (KB): It was moving to see how much support Anna in Bhutan received from fellow New Yorkers, and we are touched by the feedback we received on the Face Mask initiative. The most flattering comment we received was from a customer who told us that it made her want to wear a mask, because she felt the colors and quality of the fabrics elevated her outfit. 

Will there be new styles moving forward as people are told to wear masks now more than ever?

Kate Broug (KB): Definitely, the line will keep on developing during the next few months. We want to keep on experimenting with different materials and styles, and to incorporate feedback to perfect the masks we currently carry. 

For more on Anna in Bhutan and to view the mask collection, visit: annainbhutan.com and follow along on Instagram at: @AnnainBhutan_ Official.

Photo credit: ℅ Anna in Bhutan, all images used with permission.

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