Rachel Stone is our inspirational co-founder and the business mind of FARA Boutique and it was Rachel’s vision to create a small ethical and sustainable business that seeded the ground for FARA to form.
Disillusioned by the fashion industry and spellbound by the heart and culture of India, Rachel poured her heart and passion into co-creating FARA alongside her co-founder and designer Fumie, a journey which led her to being based between Goa, India and London, UK.
We chatted with Rachel to hear more about running a small business and life between the London city and the beaches and paddy fields of Goa in South India.
Rachel, did you ever imagine your home and office would be moments away from the sprawling beaches of Goa! Can you share a glimpse of your daily life and what you love about living in Goa?
Wow, not at all! However I also didn’t imagine myself living in London permanently either. I knew that wasn’t my reality and going on adventures and journeying around the globe during those earlier years, this was me searching for that other place.
Goa was a slow natural occurrence in life which made sense after time. I was travelling a lot in India, my children’s father and I had a motorbike and we were off on adventures all of the time. However I was also realising that I wanted to settle down and start the business I had been imagining – whilst also to create space for becoming a mother. Goa was the place where it felt easeful to be and where we felt we had a community and it was also connected to the cities where we were exploring running production.
One of the most precious parts of living in Goa is the flexibility. It is an amazing feeling to wake up each day and choose my routine. Whether it is a slow walk, taking a swim or diving straight into work – rather than living by the clock, days run by sunrise and sunset. We are so connected to nature here, to the natural rhythms and it feels more sweet and beautiful to live that way.
My weekdays are filled with work and exercise routines – we are so lucky here in Goa, there is an abundance of instructors and community and the open spaces of the beach and nature inspire me to keep active and healthy. After work and school hours I spend the afternoons on the beach or by the pool with my children.
Weekends are filled with community, Goa is this beautiful centre of connection with both long term community and also so many friends passing through. There are the weekend markets and an array of restaurants and cafes to explore, what was a sleepy village is now filled with an eclectic mix of restaurants and eateries. We also spend time doing things which the kids love, going to the movies, simply being in nature, taking a canoe out or riding the bikes.
Along with the flexibility of living, it is the medicine of the beach and the ocean that I love the most. If I am feeling exhausted, being able to go to the beach and to dip in the ocean. You can’t beat it – it’s irreplaceable to be able to feel that immediate shift.
Living between Goa and London must be quite a contrast. What do you love about splitting your time between the beaches and city?
Mostly it is that I can tap into both sides of my personality. In London I feel driven and inspired by the energy and movement. It’s a completely different rhythm yet I know that I can get on a plane and be in Goa, a place where my heart beat literally slows down and I see the world through a different lens.
It’s the simplicity of village life versus the immense possibilities of a city. I appreciate both and experience as much inspiration and mind expansion from either a London gallery or a beach sunset, although in completely different ways.
India captured your heart after your first visit in 2009. What is it about the country and culture that inspires you and FARA?
What is so incredible about India as a whole is that you can immerse in such different aspects and diverse experiences so easily. From snowy mountain trails, jungles and beaches to vibrant and busy cities. You travel half a day by road or rail and see how the landscape and culture changes rapidly and dramatically. When I first started to travel to India you could really do it on a shoestring and we bought a bike and travelled for 3 years. It was an extraordinary and rich experience filled with movement and flow. I have also experienced that the people are unbelievably hospitable and helpful and excited when they meet you and this also fills me with so much energy.
It’s a country of colours and smells – your senses are lit up. The noise! Perhaps it’s also a marmite country, you either love or hate the intensity. You are overwhelmed or in your absolute element, thriving from the wildness.
I am in my element and it was through my travels that endless possibilities of working with artisans and with people who are so open to creativity and are both able to be inspired by their craft but also from working with us – refining and creating together.
FARA is now over ten years old and started with an eclectic stall at the famous night market in Goa. It must have been quite a journey to now. What advice or tips can you share for our community about starting, running and growing a small business?
One of things that made us successful as two women supporting each other was that we kept our financial investment minimal and real. And we continue to work in this way, investing the funds back in and living very minimally in support of this. We have always tried to stay away from taking loans and borrowing, we want to be able to sustain ourselves and our team without creating additional financial anxiety.
We have learnt to work within our limits and this has meant we have to trust the process. To trust the pace at which we grow. To grow as much as you can grow and not to panic – this is important. Go slow, take it easy and be committed. It is important to create a support system as doing it alone is hard and having people to rely on is important.
Commitment is key as there are times when you have to knuckle down and graft hard and commitment makes you carry on with focus. So keep an open mind and relax, don’t turn it into too much of a struggle and remember why you started!
How do you and your business partner Fumie navigate work and friendship together?
When you are sisters, you are sisters. You have that commitment regardless of what is going on and we do our best to navigate with pure understanding and compassion towards each other’s lives. And again, commitment, 100 % commitment towards each other. Since we live most of the year in different parts of the world we’ve become fantastic at zooming and calling each other. We also have very clear responsibilities and complete faith in each to fulfil them. Although we spend a lot of time designing together, our day to day roles are clear and this keeps things clean and organised between us.
We also make sure to check in in real life and spend a good month together every year re-connecting, visioning and getting inspired.
FARA is rooted in the ethics of sustainability and awareness. What moved you to create a business rooted in these values?
When you run a small business and you are on the ground, meeting people and working closely with them it is unavoidable to get to know them. We want the best for everyone and it is part of our vision that FARA empowers and supports others, from our workers and artisans through to our buyers. Also, being in a country that’s not your own, I am even more aware and compassionate as to what our footprint is. I do not want to turn a blind eye, rather to create a system that is kind and supportive to everyone involved, this includes a happy safe environment for both people and the planet. As mothers we are even more aware and careful that any impact we create is not going to affect in a negative way.
We are seeing radical and unpredictable changes in the world happening at a very fast rate, change which is asking each of us to step up as role models and leaders for a more equal, conscious and sustainable future. What is your vision for FARA moving forward?
Our vision was always to create and produce in a way that cares for and that is the antithesis of the fast fashion environment. This vision remains. We want to stay slow and to stay small. We don’t have the desire to own an empire, rather to create things we love in a small sustainable way that takes the pressure off the environment and celebrates and supports the artisans. It is also important that we support and empower other women and small businesses and that we are working in a reciprocal way with community and Mother Earth.