Fashion designer Frances Carrington moved from Australia to the Himalayas and fell in love with Indian and Tibetan culture, so she decided to stay and start her own brand of Fair Trade fashion to benefit the local community. Eternal Creation is now sold in over 200 stores in Australia, Europe and Asia. She tells us about everyday life in Dharamsala – home of the Dalai Lama – where she lives with her husband, Rory, and two children, Imogen and Oscar.

What do you do?
I’m a fashion designer, and have my own label, Eternal Creation, which produces Fair Trade women’s, children’s and men’s fashion.

What’s your neighbourhood like?
We live in lower Dharamsala, in the Himalayas in North India. Dharamsala is home to the Dalai Lama, so as well as Indians there are many Tibetans living here and a lot of ex-pats.

What do you and your family do on a regular day out?
Visit friends, drink chai…we often go for picnics and hikes in the mountains.

What’s a typical day for you in Dharamsala?
Typically we get the kids off to school around 8.50am (they have a ten-minute walk up the hill to school), then it’s a ten-minute walk down the hill to the workshop. We have lunch at the Eternal Creation workshop (we have a cook at the workshop who makes tea and cooked lunches for everyone) and the children come to the workshop after school, around 3:15pm. We have swings, a dog and a nice garden at the workshop, and the kids love it there! As well as playing with the children of employees, they also make loads of things out of off cuts of fabric, ribbon, sequins etc. We come home around 5.30pm, for a normal evening of dinner, bath, bed, stories, collapse!

What about food shopping? This must be very different to what you were used to in Australia?
The food is all from the local market and there’s no refrigeration there (as a result, we’re vegetarian!), so the vegetables and fruit are always in season and usually picked that day (or a little older in the case of things like potatoes and bananas!).

What is the biggest media story at the moment in India?
Elections and cricket!

How has the presence of the Tibetan government in Dharamsala changed the city and its inhabitants?
It has bought many tourists to the region (to see the Dalai Lama) and with them there is an increase in spending, so overall I think it has had a very positive impact on the local economy. There are also many cross-cultural friendships and relationships.

What about fashion? Do most people prefer traditional clothing or does Indian and Tibetan fashion go through fads as well, like Western countries?

Women in India tend to dress very conservatively, and although Indian fashion changes a little, it’s all about covering the body. However the younger generations of both Indians and Tibetans are starting to wear Western-style dress (e.g. blue jeans and T-shirts) on a regular basis.

What’s a traditional recipe that’s loved in Dharamsala?
Rajma! This a delicious hearty bean stew made from red kidney beans and served with rice. It’s quite spicy, and is often eaten with curd (yoghurt) and chapatis.

What makes India feel like home?
The people – they are extremely friendly, warm and welcoming.