- Sanyukta Shrestha
(Sanyukta Shrestha, who started her career by designing dresses for Miss Nepal at the age of 17 went to London for MA studies in fashion design. But after seeing & learning the harsh cruelty fashion industry was doing with animals and the planet, she decided to dedicate her career pioneering sustainable and ethical designs in the fashion industry adding a new feather in the fashion world. Now she has won many prestigious awards mainly in the field of creating sustainable wedding dresses which are kind for both people and Planet and made her nominations in a number of international awards. The word “sustainable fashion” looked alien to the many people in the UK some 12 years before, has now become very popular and the credit goes to visionary designers like Nepali born Sanyukta, mother of two daughters, who has established herself in London fashion world in less than one and a half decade period with her innovative and forward thinking approach on fashion. Here are excerpts from an encounter with Sanyukta.)
TNW: What inspired you to be a fashion designer ?
Sanyukta: In fact, it wasn’t chosen by me to become a fashion designer. It was by accident that I came to this field. Initially, I wanted to be an artist.
TNW: I think you started doing fashion design from Miss Nepal pageant. Yes?
Sanyukta: Yes I did. I was chosen as a junior designer to design dresses for Miss Nepal. At that time I was just 17 years old. I was a fashion student. The Hidden Treasure asked me, “would you like to do dress design for Miss Nepal?” At that time I said, “No. I can’t.” Because I was too young at that time. I didn’t have time to learn fashion design. “There is no time limitation to become a fashion designer and you are very talented person, I have seen your design,” they said. Then I said “Ok, I will come back to you.” I went to the home and then I spoke to my mom about this, she said, “Why not? You need to have trust in what you are doing.” Then next day I came back I said yes, I will do it. This way I started working as a fashion designer. I did my first design work for Miss Nepal 1998. My first ever design got awarded the Best Design award during Miss Nepal 1998. I had designed dresses for Miss Asia Pacific and Miss Nepal World contestants as well. In this way I got chance to do design for international events. And after that I had a completely non-stop journey in the fashion world.
TNW: What made you to move to London as a fashion designer and how did you become successful in international fashion platform in such a young age?
Sanyukta: I didnt think of going abroad when I was working in Nepal as I was fully occupied by major events like Miss Nepal as an official designer and was designing dresses for film & celebrities and had a fully running Boutique in Kathmandu. I was fashion instructor and same time a fashion columnist for Nari magazine for many years. I had degree in journalism, English literature and fashion design as well. In search of higher studies I went to London to join London college of Fashion. That’s how my journey to London started. In London I researched more and more and studied about fashion design. I came to know about cruelty that was prevalent in the fashion industry here, which was very sad. Lot of people, animal and everything have been exploited in the fashion industry. Then I decided that I must become a sustainable fashion designer. I realized that I can’t harm animals any more as a designer. As a designer and as a person it is my responsibility to really protect my community, my people, my planet, as we all co-exist.
TNW: So you linked fashion design with nature, with environment and with climate issue. Yes?
Sanyukta: Exactly, and we have to. If we don’t act now, it will truely be too late. I have been working for 11 – 12 years in London, after lunching the ramp. And that time when I lunched my ramp it was like alien. Sustainable design was never heard before here. I started designing dresses with the use of materials like bamboo, organic cotton, hemp and metal. People were asking what is it, such a crazy thing? They didn’t understand at first. But some people and the media started understanding what I have been doing. Some people appreciated my efforts, my works and awarded me for many times in England and internationally as well. That’s how my journey grew and grew. After ten or 12 years now sustainable fashion has become familiar here. Now its no more a new thing. People here started to realize that climate change, climate crisis is a real issue. Now it has become a global issue that needs to be properly addressed.
TNW: What is the uniqueness you have that other fashion designers in London don’t have?
Sanyukta: Probably I saw the things much earlier than many others in fashion world. People really realized that something different about our brand and its ethos. As a human we cant be just greedy taking fashion as a selfish business and keep harming the nature. We all know now fashion is the second most polluting industry in the world. It is really devastating how the industry has been growing. Probably the vision of kindness & compassion towards people, planet & profit I had as a designer was a unique factor. I guess the love and care I shared through my fashion was ingrained in me being a Nepali daughter.
TNW: I think you in a way mixed up Nepali and Newari culture with the Western style to create something new. Is that true?
Sanyukta: Culture – wise speaking not only Newari, we live in a multi-culture country. We have so many things. Everything is so important to me. Though, I am a Newari girl. But for me, the multi-cultural aspect is very important. Being a Nepali girl its like deeprooted in my blood. And I use many materials from Nepal. More than 50 percent of the fabrics in our collections are from Nepal. Women from different villages, almost one hundred villages, I have worked with so many people, women from diverse background and ethnic group weave their beautiful fiber. I can use that fiber to create beautiful designs to show the world that fashion can be created with love and respect. It shouldn’t be like use and throw without caring about how you dispose.
TNW: What are your future plans?
Sanyukta: I will keep on doing what I am doing by educating people about sustainable fashion. And how we can really cope with global crisis with doing good things. We still can prevent many things if we act now. And I feel that as a Nepali we have so much inspiration to take from our people, nature and the culture. I really want to show the world that how beautiful is our country Nepal & it’s people.
TNW: What are your advises to a young Nepali fashion designer?
Sanyukta: As a designer, we have to be more responsible socially, environmentally and culturally promote our treasure to the world and not just following big fashion houses. We have to do research on how we can promote our Nepalese materials and take steps forward.
TNW: How can you utilize this platform to promote tourism of Nepal?
Sanyukta: I think I have been advocating Nepal tourism all the time through my design & craft. I think tourism is not only about beautiful places but also about its people, culture, craft and their lifestyles. We have over one thousand years of history of weaving and hand craft. We have a heritage that has been handed over to generations from generations. If we are able to empower these artisans, there are about a million homebased artisans, majority are women in Nepal, our country will prosper. We can promote their work and show the world the cultural aspect of our heritage. In the villages every woman is an artist. Like in Khokana, every woman is like an artist, weaver. They weave in their own fiber, create their own design. We have a ancestral gift that needs to be preserved and nurtured. If we don’t preserve may be 10-20years later, there won’t be a weaver, there won’t be a hand painter or artisans. The artisans, the community, our people’s simple lifestyles are our assets. If their craft thrives it will not only attract tourists from all over the world but will also help nurture our mother earth.