Fashion statement from the roof of the world

The first edition of the Mt Everest Fashion Runway in January 2020 was closely followed by the pandemic that led Nepal's tourism industry to collapse. This year's event is expected to help revive tourism and promote sustainable fashion. Photos: MT EVEREST FASHION RUNWAY

After two years of nearly zero income from tourism, the Mt Everest region of Nepal will be the venue for a fashion event this month to promote post-pandemic eco-tourism, and establish Nepal as a centre for sustainable fashion.

K Films and Kasa Nepal are partnering with Endemol Shine India to announce Season 2 of the Mt Everest Fashion Runway to be held in Gokyo on 23 September to promote sustainability in the fashion industry by displaying biodegradable, renewable and ethically-sourced fabrics.

The global fashion industry with its fleeting fads, large carbon footprint, and wasteful use of resources is increasingly seen as unsustainable. The cotton and textile industry, for example, are the second largest users and polluters of freshwater resources worldwide, and the increasing use of synthetic material in clothing is adding to waste.

The show will be conducted near the base camp of Mt Cho Oyu, which at 8,188m is the world’s sixth-highest mountain and located on the Nepal-China border 20km west of Mt Everest. It will feature numerous international supermodels and Nepali models, all of whom will be on the catwalk, wearing designs by Ramila Nemkul of Kasa, an international fashion brand based in Kathmandu.

“Far too often, people do social work in the Khumbu region but do not come back,” says Laxman Adhikari, ward chair of Pasang Lhamu Rural Municipality. “This type of initiative not only promotes the Khumbu but continually returns to support the Khumbu in a sustainable manner.” 

The clothing designs will be made of biodegradable fabric, non-violent (cruelty-free) silk, and other sustainable fabrics like pashmina and wool felt. The event will also be filmed for a documentary and a web series shot by Shruti Anindita Varma, a film director who has produced documentaries and popular reality tv shows in India. 

The first Mt Everest Fashion Runway was held last year at Kala Pattar (5,643m) and was hailed by the Guinness Book as the world’s highest fashion show with models and participants from 18 countries. This year’s event will beat even that record, and there will be 200 people attending the event at the scenic Gokyo Lake located alongside Nepal’s longest glacier, the Ngozumba.

The glacier itself is rapidly shrinking, and the snowline across the Himalaya is receding due to the climate crisis. Organisers of the fashion events say they are going out of their way to create awareness about climate change, and to ensure that the event itself will have a light environmental footprint.

Mt Everest Fashion Runway aims to set an example and give Nepal a global reputation for being the sustainable fashion hub for the world. In an attempt to minimise its environmental impact, organisers say, all participants trekking up from Lukla to Gokyo, including the audience, will be using probiotic soaps and shampoos with waterless baths, effectively saving more than 20,000 litres of water. All the throwaway items will be brought back down, and participants will be offsetting their carbon emissions.

The event itself will provide jobs this autumn season for 400 residents of Khumbu, including porters and guides, whose livelihoods have been hit by an almost complete collapse of the trekking industry since sprint 2020. 

Organisers of the Mt Everest Fashion Runway at a press meet in Kathmandu recently.

The Mt Everest Fashion Runway will also be a launch pad for ‘8848.86 — A Dollar A Metre’, a social business that will ultimately generate income from selling Everest memorabilia to participants, and to the 75,000 tourists who will be visiting the Everest region every year post-pandemic.

Organisers have got RB Diamond Jewellers to craft miniature Everests from kyanite, a precious stone found in Nepal. Visitors can buy the replicas for Rs8848.86 for individuals, and at $8848.86 for corporations. Last year, a joint Nepal-China survey updated the true elevation of Mt Everest / Chomolungma to exactly 8,848.46m. 

Proceeds from the sale of the miniatures will be donated to the Himalayan Climate Initiative (HCI), a youth-driven, Nepali non-profit that promotes climate resilience and supports the Himalayan communities.

“We hope that the fashion show and memorabilia will be a great income generation and fund-raising tool to help the Khumbu adapt to the impact of climate change,” says Pankaj Gupta, an international fashion analyst and mentor of the Mt Everest Fashion Runway.

Some of the money raised will be used by Pasang Lhamu Municipality for the construction of gabion levees along the Imja Khola to protect villages like Dingboche and Pangboche from future glacial lake outburst floods. Climate change is causing the mountains to melt, turning many Himalayan glaciers into large lakes that are in danger of bursting catastrophically. 

Riken Maharjan, gemologist and executive at RB Diamond Jewellers says, “We are very proud to be cooperating with Mt Everest Fashion Runway to make this the first time Nepal exports a finished gemstone product.” 

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