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On style: With fashion designer Abinash Shrestha

On style: With fashion designer Abinash Shrestha

Abinash Shrestha has been involved in the fashion industry for the past 12 years. With a Master’s in Business Management, he initially envisioned joining his father’s import and export business. However, his passion for fashion and style proved too strong to ignore. As the proprietor of Ariri Boutique, Shrestha has made a significant mark in the beauty pageant industry, having served as the official stylist for Miss Universe Nepal from 2020 to 2023. Recently, Shrestha was honored with the prestigious Fashion Stylist Award by Dream Search Agency. Ken Subedi converses with Shrestha on various dimensions of fashion.

What inspired you to join the fashion industry?

My friend introduced me to Rihanna in my school days, and I was fascinated by two things: her voice and her fashion sense. It was then that I started decoding and understanding style, sensibility, and began linking people's personalities to how they dress up. The art of comprehending individuals, their fashion choices, and the unique voice reflected through their fashion fascinated me deeply. Hence, from the very early stage, I became involved in fashion shows, beauty pageants, and took on assignments as a stylist for actors, models, and even business personalities. My friend, Nagma Shrestha, Miss Earth 2012, and the first-ever Miss Universe Nepal, has also been a huge inspiration. She helped me navigate the fashion scene and understand the challenges and opportunities. Today, I own Ariri Boutique, which helps people get closer to their style, and we have been running for the past four years.

What do you think of the fashion scene in Nepal?

The fashion scene in Nepal is constantly evolving, and I find it exhilarating. I admire how today’s youngsters know what they want and have realized that fashion can be a means of rebellion against things they don’t believe in while also fostering alliances with causes that truly matter. Fashion serves as a unifier—it’s a language that connects people. However, I personally feel that our fashion is mostly borrowed, and we still need to find our unique voice, that edge that defines us. With our rich culture, textiles, and patterns, we have the potential to revolutionize the fashion industry. But for that, we need to make bold choices—not merely follow trends from elsewhere but market and revolutionize the fashion and style inherent to our culture.

Do you think you need to study fashion to be a fashion designer or stylist?

I studied business management, and here I am today, running a boutique and making a living out of fashion. While having a degree in fashion is beneficial, an understanding of fashion and style is essential. Observing how people react to fashion and style and finding the right balance between creativity and fashion are crucial. It’s also important to engage with diverse individuals, draw inspiration from them, and incorporate their stories into your work. For instance, every time I sketch, I consider the stories of my clients—their love stories, realities, challenges, and their go-getter attitude. These attributes and stories shape my designs.

Is the fashion industry profitable?

Yes, it is, and it will be if you find that unique entry point. For me, I dabble in both traditional and modern fashion. My boutique specializes in both traditional attire, and I don’t shy away from using creative textiles to design modern jackets and skirts. Additionally, I like to diversify and not limit myself to one theme or comfort fashion only. Thus, catering to both women’s and men’s wear. However, the initial days are always challenging. You may have great ideas, but you might not have a market. Hence, it’s essential to connect with people, understand the market, and ask yourself that one hard question, “if this idea doesn’t work, will you have the courage to wake up tomorrow and start anew?” I do that every single day, and for ideas that don’t work, I know tomorrow is a new day, and I will definitely try to make things happen.