At Sherpa Adventure Gear, we’re always looking for new ways to provide employment opportunities to the people of Nepal through the products we create. Our woolen hats, mittens, sweaters and accessories create hundreds of jobs for women in Nepal each year, despite being only sold winter months. Inspired by the success of these programs, our design teams recognized the opportunity to do even more good, by developing a line of summer-oriented items. “The goal with the Jhola series was to introduce new categories that are handcrafted in Nepal and allow us to create year-round, sustainable work for the community while sharing our rich heritage and culture.” says Pema Chamatsang-Sherpa, who oversees the Sherpa line of accessories and handcrafted products.

A stall at Thamel market featuring some of the colorful bags that provided the inspiration behind the Jhola series.

The Jhola Collection was born after a visit to Kathmandu’s Thamel market, where an endless variety of woven fabrics, textiles, handicrafts and souvenirs are found. This lively market is also a must-visit for travelers, whether shopping for souvenirs and trekking gear, or wandering through the bustling alleyways taking in the sights, smells and sounds. Colorful travel bags made of brightly colored woven fabrics are a commonly found at the stalls and shops in Thamel, and they provided the perfect inspiration for this additional product line that would reflect both the traditional woven fabrics of Nepal, and the modern day experience of a visit to Thamel.

 

Shilu Shrestha and her son in front of their storefront in Lalitpur, Nepal.

Sherpa partnered with a small family-run textile mill in Lalitpur, Nepal, operated by husband and wife Maheshwor and Shilu Shrestha, who were already creating colorful woven fabrics. The Sherpa team sampled the mill’s existing stock, and then created unique patterns and colors to merchandise with the rest of Sherpa’s 2017 line of apparel. The team also worked with the Shrestha family to transition away from the use of azo dyes, that are commonly used to create fabric pigments, but have been found to be potential carcinogens and are damaging to the environment, creating a healthier product for both workers and consumers alike.

 

Some of the original fabric designs (left) which inspired the textures, patterns and colors found in Sherpa’s 2017 line (right)

The resulting fabrics were then used to create shoulder bags, totes and travel pouches you’ll find in our Jhola collection, that are also made in Nepal. The collection was given the name “Johla”, which is the Nepali word for bag. We are proud to share these products with the world — helping to create new jobs, improve working conditions, and encourage the use of more environmentally friendly azo-free dyes. We thank you for weaving these luminous fabrics into your life as well.

 

The end-result: Colorful, unique and practical everyday bags and travel accessories. With love from Nepal. 

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