20 Aug The Noces: A Marriage and A Mission
On her wedding day, The Noces founder, Holy, said ‘I do,’ celebrated with those she loves and thanked her guests with a special parting gift—a handmade raffia bag, made by local women with local materials and good intentions.
Born in Madagascar, raised in France and living everywhere in between, Holy wanted to start this new chapter of her life in her home country. As a way to more thoroughly integrate the Malagasy culture with the celebration of her wedding, she asked local women to craft traditional raffia bags as a unique ‘thank you’ gift. These favors were so graciously received and admired by guests that Holy was motivated and inspired to share them with people all over the globe.
‘Noces,’ meaning ‘wedding’ or ‘marriage’ in French, signifies the union for which the bags served as parting gifts, as well as a re-union between Holy and her Malagasy culture. With this business, Holy hopes to pay tribute to and show appreciation for her heritage and the people of her country.
Before The Noces and still today, Holy is the Head of Corporate Responsibility for a Fortune 500 company. Always moving, Holy started The Noces as a secondary career, keeping her busy on weekends and in her downtime.
“The Noces started as a passion really. I didn’t think at some point that it would get that big, because, as I said, I was just keeping myself busy on the weekends, especially after my wedding,” said Holy. “I needed an extra activity and I wanted to keep working with the artisans…Now we have a collection and full-time people working with us, especially the artisans, and still, of course, the support of my family in Portugal and Madagascar to make it what it is today.”
From the beginning, The Noces has been a family-operated business spanning three, technically four, continents. Holy, with the help of her husband, manage the company and develop designs from Hong Kong, China, along with a designer in Venezuela, Holy’s parents oversee artisan relations in Madagascar, and then the items are shipped to Portugal to their logistics warehouse, which is run by Holy’s in-laws, where The Noces bags are then shipped all over the world.
“It’s still very much a family business on a very small structure, but it’s growing and we’re having regular customers. Our brand is getting a little bit more visible than it was before,” said Holy. “It’s a bit of a dream of mine, but it’s good that they’ve been involved and they’ve been very supportive in this journey. For them as well, it’s a part-time activity, and they’re of course happy to watch as it grows.”
Every Noces bag is handcrafted from start to finish by the same Malagasy woman. The Noces employs six full-time artisans, all women, and works with the Chamber of Commerce in Antananarivo, the capital of Madagascar, to ensure the women receive fair wages and are provided with technical classes and training to improve their craft and progress as businesswomen.
“This is what I do every day—philanthropy, social entrepreneurship and working with tech companies that are using their technology for good. So, I wanted to do something more. I wanted to empower the people locally, so we started working with the Chamber of Commerce of Antananarivo, trying to see if we have all of these artisans working with us registered in the Chamber of Commerce and making sure they’re paid fairly and they have access to some training and local opportunities,” said Holy.
The Noces works with the women individually, and uses sustainably-sourced, chemical-free materials, most commonly the native plant raffia, in the creation of their products.
“The raffia itself—is a very interesting material because in order to make it grow, you need to extract it—that’s part of the process. So we’re actually helping the plants and nature to regenerate itself by taking it out,” said Holy.
The Noces maintains a mission of sustainability in the manufacturing of their bags and aims to minimize the mentality of excess in the fashion industry. Their products all possess a simple, timeless and season-less design, to be used year-round, over and over again.
“Our point is that every year you don’t need buy a new bag; you can keep this one because the quality is good. You can keep it for years, rather than a bag from a fast fashion brand that is maybe $20-$25, but then next year you have to buy a new one. Then you’re accumulating waste, and it’s not very responsible to have that many bags. It’s better to invest in a piece that might cost you a little more, but will last,” said Holy. “Shop responsibly because every choice matters. It’s about a lifestyle. When you decide to buy something, you actually buy a dream, you buy a life sometimes for people…you’re actually supporting much more than a simple purchase, it means much more than that,” Holy urges.
The Noces donates 5-10% of every purchase towards local organizations in Madagascar that help at-risk youth. They’re currently working with two organizations, one which combats child prostitution and another which encourages and equips children for a future in entrepreneurship.
“We’re very much of a social business—we try to empower the people, we give back to communities, try to provide some good products, and we try as much as we can to make it affordable,” said Holy.
As they grow, The Noces hopes to join forces with other companies to maximize their impact. Through global partnerships, The Noces will unite with like-minded brands to create a sustainable and conscientious future in fashion.
“Make yourself known and let’s work together on different platforms, with different brands and try to have a bigger voice together. As I said, it’s about the lifestyle and the way of living that we’re trying to influence and change, because people are more conscious about the price than a specific product. But today it’s not about that. It’s about changing the way we live if we’re going to have a bigger impact on the future, and that only works if we have a mindset that’ll be changing. For that to happen, it’s not going to be one brand that’ll make a difference, it’ll be the whole industry with a lot of individuals coming together.”
In their partnership with Verte Luxe, The Noces is already following this path to change with other sustainably-minded brands in hopes of transforming the the fashion industry, and the way we live and consume.