Mansiri Design started with the question: Why is it so hard to find ethically sourced clothing that is bohemian yet stylish and can be worn to work (without looking like a total hippie)?
Don’t get me wrong, there's nothing wrong with a bit of hippie, but at this point in life the question was about finding clothes that felt stylish and interesting, different from the mainstream as well as flattering and professional.
For those of you who, like me, have left your 20s, you’ll perhaps relate to the sentiment that sometimes you just don’t feel comfortable carrying out your professional duties or in everyday life (with or without kids) wearing overly revealing bohemian style clothes. On the flip-side, ‘alternative’ bohemian clothes are often so ‘flowy’ you feel like you’re prancing about in a birthing shroud. You often have to dig to find clothes that provide something unique without being too outlandish, and something classy while still speaking to the nomad inside.
With this context in mind, on a trip to visit family in Nepal in 2015, an obsession with Nepalese textiles began.
As a bit of a textile junkie, the range of new designs and fabrics came as a surprise. Sure, the tourist districts displayed all the usual suspects of cheesecloth and tie-dye, hemp and Indian inspired patterns. But, due to family, I was lucky to be exposed to the products and designs of local people, not often seen or explored by tourists.
My sister-in-law is an amazing dress-maker and designs high-quality outfits for people. I sat day after day in her shop as locals came in to select their fabric for her to create beautiful outfits, personally tailored to their needs and style. I was taken to hidden saree shops up tiny staircases and watched my master sister-in-law in action bartering for sarees, learning about how to assess the quality of a saree and the different types available from different regions.
A craze for shawl buying began on the famous New Road. I marveled at how soft and warm they were but also how stylish and contemporary a lot of the designs were.
I learnt about Nepali dhaka fabric used for traditional shawls, hats and saree blouses (and now other items) which is traditionally made by handloom and fell in love with the intricate geometric patterns, symmetry and the colour combinations of dhaka – all which seemed really fresh.
This obsession started to answer another burning question that had been brewing in the back of my mind: Where can I find clothes that help me to support local communities and bypass ‘fast fashion’?
Given that we had access to Nepalese communities and small businesses, the pieces started to fall into place. We collaborated with small businesses and local artisans to find out more about how to combine traditional textiles into a contemporary western context.
So now here we are: Bringing these exciting and interesting textiles to you to incorporate something new, something different, something luxurious into your look.
Enjoy the journey and please share with us any feedback and ideas you have!