Nepal in global sustainable fashion in 22

Fashion is elegant and luxurious, but add sustainability to it and that is how you will see Sanyukta Shrestha’s designs. Her recent walk of fame was during the red carpet of the Hollywood movie, Top Gun: Maverick, where Egyptian/Swiss actress Yasmina El-Abd wore one of her sustainable gowns at the event, where she joined Hollywood actor and lead of the movie Tom Cruise and his co-stars joined British Prince William and Princess Kate.

“It felt surreal, but I was proud to represent Nepal and Britain while promoting sustainable fashion and women empowerment through my dresses.”

As glamorous and glitzy as the events can be, it is no less than a dream to walk the red carpet on such a big event. So how did designer Sanyukta Shrestha reach the new heights of her career, taking Nepal to the international platform?

Opening new doors

Whereas people choose their career, Shrestha says it always felt like somehow it was fashion that chose her. “I never dreamt of becoming a designer. I believe the day I joined the fashion design class was the breakthrough point of my career. And, in the early years, after winning an award for the first creation I designed, it opened new doors for me into the fashion world.”

After that, she has not looked back and has left her mark in a lot of places. Whether it is being awarded the best design award in 1998 in Nepal or titled best perfect wedding newcomer award 2011 in the UK, everything helped her start big.

Sanyukta Shrestha did not stop there and went ahead to be awarded for her designs, the Bridal Innovation award 2011 (International) and the British bridal designer of the year 2019. Her recent awards include being the winner of wedding boutique of the Year 2020 in the UK; Good Brand Award 2020, and PETA Vegan Wedding Award 2021. 

Sanyukta shrestha SS Haute Couture Catwalk-London Bridal Fashion Week-London
(Left) Models wearing Sanyukta Shrestha’s designs at the International fashion show in White Gallery London (2012); and (centre and right) the London Bridal Fashion Week in London (2015). Photo Courtesy: Sanyukta Shrestha

“Every award and accolades are momentous, but I always recall when one of my sustainable creations was inducted into the Fashion Museum in Bath, UK, in 2012. It was a proud moment being the first Nepali designer to have my design curated and preserved  in one of the world’s greatest fashion museums.”

Sanyukta Shrestha is one of the few Nepali fashion designers who have made their name on international platforms. She shares, “I am so happy to see artists and designers from the Nepali fashion and entertainment industry getting international recognition. It is certainly a great achievement for our country. But, we should keep the creativity consistent and keep pushing the boundaries to take Nepal to new international heights.”

Not just in the international scene, Sanyukta Shrestha is quite versed in what is happening within the Nepali fashion industry as well, where she sees a lot of potential. “I have seen a quite impressive development in the fashion industry in Nepal recently. However, there is a lot of work to do towards the sustainable aspects of the Nepali fashion scenario. Nevertheless, as our country Nepal is gifted with an abundance of natural resources and artisans’ skills, they should be best utilised, promoted and protected.”

Sanyukta Shrestha: The face of sustainability

Sustainable fashion is still a luxurious choice. Yet choosing sustainable fashion is the need of time. “Fashion is the second most polluting industry in the world, creating serious environmental issues ahead for future generations. And as a designer, I feel responsible. This is why, I have devoted my career as a designer to making luxurious designs with a conscience, which means it has a unique character but does not have to cost the earth its longevity.”

In retrospect, she shares, “Some 18 years ago, while volunteering for the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) Nepal, I had a vision of cruelty-free fashion. Since then, I think deeply about the future of our planet and what the impact each and every one of us has.” 

Taking her country’s traditional and ethnic fashion wear to the international level, Sanyukta Shrestha also curated her own line of sustainable ethnic wear. “I have huge respect for traditional Nepali craftsmanship. From the very beginning of my career, I was cohesively working with local and rural women artisans, empowering them through self-reliant sustainable projects.”

Sanyukta Shrestha in Khokana village working with local women handweavers. Photo: Mahesh Pradhan
Sanyukta Shrestha in Khokana village working with local women handweavers. Photo: Mahesh Pradhan

“I believe that helped me make my unique identity as a young designer and I want people to be aware that luxury and sustainability are not two separate realities,” she shares.

Sustainable future

Sanyukta Shrestha is a big advocate of sustainable fashion choices. Her designs have been deemed timeless and the most comfortable lines of clothing. In the start, she says, they have been subjected to some scepticism as well. “Being probably one of the first brands to introduce sustainability in the wedding world, people used to criticise that the business was not viable.” 

Yet, times have changed. “Sustainable fashion was treated as the least appreciated and uncool subject until a few years ago, whereas sustainability has become the must-have thing now. And, I am very happy and positive about the green future.”

“Sustainability and compassion are the need of the hour. It is our duty to inculcate the value of sustainability and compassion together not just by displaying sensitivity towards the situation around our world but to support them in times of need,” she shares.

This is why in her upcoming projects, she is looking forward to collaborating and putting together sustainable designs for a bigger impact and combat the long-term effects that fashion has on the planet. 

In her pursuit, she is already being an advocate for sustainable weddings and offering a kinder way to get married with sustainable bridal wear. “In collaboration with Brides Do Good, the initiative supports charity organisations working to empower girls and end child marriage with one-third of their profit. We are working for a brighter future where one dress can support 10,000 days of education for girls.”

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