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Visitors to Nepal are familiar with the common accessories and souvenirs available – Tibetan-style jewellery, prayer flags, singing bowls, ‘Dal Bhat Power, 24 Hour’ t-shirts. Yet, there’s also no shortage of talented and innovative contemporary designers, especially in the capital, for pieces that are more modern and have been crafted with ethical production principles. From repurposed saris to bags inspired by traditional rural styles, here are some of the best fashion designers in Nepal to follow.
A mala is a string of prayer beads, like a rosary, used by Tibetan Buddhists. Sherpani Creations – run by French-Sherpa Emilie Sherpa – reimagines the traditional malas and turns them into wearable necklaces and bracelets. There are pieces to suit almost any taste: many are unisex, made from neutral-toned stones such as tiger eye, jasper and onyx, while others are elegantly feminine. The designs of Sherpani Creations are available at Timro Conceptstore in Jhamsikhel, or at regular craft markets around Kathmandu, such as the Art Market at The Yellow House, Sanepa.
Ekadesma means ‘once upon a time’ in Nepali. A brand by this name is run by two sisters, Alpaza Rajbhandari and Anuza Shrestha. They tell stories of Nepal through graphic tees and homewares, such as printed cushion covers, and all their products are produced by women, whom they also train. Their t-shirts make excellent souvenirs as they are often adorned with famous Nepali motifs such as the living goddess, pagodas, and the faces of gods. Their simple, loose cotton and linen clothing is also very practical for living or travelling in Nepal. All of their products are made from natural fibres woven in the country. Ekadesma has a shop in Thamel, and some items are sold at the Timro Conceptstore in Jhamsikhel.
HATTIHATTI aims to empower women from marginalised communities in Nepal through education and training. Among their creations are cute statement tote bags, and kimonos made from recycled silk saris that make for great dressing gowns or cover-ups when touring Kathmandu’s temples. Their logo is two elephants because, well, ‘hatti’ means elephant in Nepali. HATTIHATTI is located in Sanepa, but items are also sold at Timro Conceptstore, artisan markets around Kathmandu, and even at a few locations in Sweden (check their website for more details).
Resa Living combines Scandinavian design with Nepali craftspersonship, and is run by Theresa, a Danish resident of Kathmandu. The brand boasts a wide variety of products, from jewellery made with old Nepali coins to girls’ dresses made from recycled silk saris. Among our favourites are the purses made from traditional Nepali cloth with a twist, playing with unusual colour combinations and juxtapositions, such as leather with striped Tibetan fabric. Products are available from their website, or at Timro Conceptstore in Jhamsikhel. They also provide made-to-order custom pieces.
The White Yak utilises the fabric of the pangden, the colourful striped woollen aprons worn by Tibetan and ethnically Tibetan women, and combines it with leather to make bags and purses. The resulting look is very modern with a hint of tradition. The company purchases the pangdens directly from the women who make them, and sources its leather from an ethical, fair-wage tannery that uses vegetable dyes instead of harsh chemicals. The White Yak’s products are available in several places around Kathmandu, including Timro Conceptstore, The Local Project Nepal in Jhamsikhel and One Tree Stop on Durbar Marg. Their website deals with wholesale orders.
Anu Shrestha is the seasoned designer behind Kallisto Designs, a women’s clothing brand selling items made from hand-painted silk and cashmere. Shrestha worked for many years as a designer at other fashion houses before launching her own label in 2016. Kallisto’s individually crafted scarves make for great souvenirs, but the real works of art are her hand-painted silk saris — these are certainly a worthwhile investment if you have occasion to wear them. Kallisto’s shop is on Red Cross Road, near Kalimati, and some items are available at Timro Conceptstore.
Kreeti Shakya, the woman behind Allaré, aims to turn traditional Nepali crafts into modern media. Allaré’s distinctive laser-cut wood blocks, etched with traditional Nepali emblems, have been transformed into all kinds of modern items, such as pen drives, bottle openers, coasters, bookmarks and even games of tic-tac-toe. They all make excellent gifts, but our favourite is the Allaré doko bag. These woven leather bags are large enough to carry your laptop, baby supplies, school books and so on, and are inspired by the traditional bamboo doko bag used in rural parts of Nepal. Allaré’s products can be purchased from Timro Conceptstore, The Local Project in Jhamsikhel, and Cafe Evoke in Pokhara.
Aayusha Shrestha’s jewellery designs, combining traditional designs with modern simplicity, are exquisite and work in both formal and casual settings (in Nepal and abroad). Unlike many contemporary designers, Aamo’s target audience consists of Nepalis, rather than just foreigners. Shrestha saw a lack of contemporary jewellery brands in Nepal catering to this market and launched this brand. Aamo produces limited quantities of all designs, making sure that the emphasis is on manufacturing quality rather than quantity. The brand relies on Instagram to launch, promote and sell their designs, some of which can be found at Timro Conceptstore and at artisan markets around the city.
Pia Nepal was founded by French designer Marie Ange Sylvain-Holmgren, who wished to raise the level of design in Nepal and bring artisans out of their comfort zones. Pia Nepal’s homewares and accessories reflect an amazing attention to detail. Our favourites are the hand-beaten brass light shades that look a bit like flying saucers, and the colourful hummingbird beaded clutches. Products are available at their showroom at the Patan Durbar Square, Timro Conceptstore, One Tree Stop, and even at one location in France.
Eta Shrestha’s goal with Tissah is to create heirloom-quality wearable arts pieces, and to take joy in slow fashion.
“Today when most of the brands are rapidly creating new products and design and encouraging fast fashion, Tissah believes in the counter-movement of slow fashion. Slow fashion means that we will take time to create a product in a responsible manner,” the designer stated in an interview last year.
The brand mainly creates leather bags and purses, as well as jewellery, and both the materials and the artisanship behind the products are sourced locally from the Kathmandu Valley. Tissah’s products are available from their boutique at the Hotel Ambassador on Lazimpat Road, and at Timro Conceptstore.