Photo by Yan Pekar
I’m from Nepal. It’s a little country. Even the people are little, but they have big hearts.
After I moved to Barcelona to be with my Catalan partner, Laura (pictured above), I started to think about what I wanted to dedicate my time to. I studied business in London, so something related to that, but also something connected to Nepal. Our families are both involved in the textile industry, working with natural fabrics. That’s how ‘firiri’ was born—from a desire to fuse Asia and Europe, my past and my present, in an international clothing brand.
‘Firiri’ means movimiento con viento. If you think about a flag waving, moving in any direction it pleases; that symbol of freedom and liberty best represents our brand. Firiri is a platform for creativity. If someone has an idea, we welcome them. It’s as if our company is a football pitch—the pitch itself doesn’t do anything, it’s simply the platform for young kids with talent to become superstars. We are here to create wealth and opportunity for others, not just ourselves.
Our fashion design is European, but our lines are made with products from Nepal. For example, we use a traditional fabric of Nepal called ‘dhaka’. Dhaka can be paired with our organic cotton or bamboo to mix up the designs of our jackets and tops. We believe that when Europeans wear Nepalese fabrics, the bridge between East and West strengthens.
We are not so concerned about selling clothes. Our clothes brand has a greater purpose—to promote Nepalese culture and traditions. Most people associate Nepal with the Himalayas, but there is more to it than snowy mountains. Firiri aspires to show people what else the country has to offer. The time has come for the global community to do business differently, and business shouldn’t be solely about chasing wealth. Companies need to be chasing vision, upholding values and making decisions that benefit others as well as the planet.
It’s a challenge to compete with big brand names. They keep their clothing prices extremely low by exploiting labour, especially in poor countries in Southeast Asia. Our first priority is to make sure the people who produce our clothes are treated fairly—they can eat, send their children to school, etc. Also, fundamental things that we take for granted in Europe are not available in Nepal. Electricity, for instance—at certain times each day, there are blackouts in the areas where our factories are located. There isn’t enough clean drinking water and the infrastructure of the country is not always safe. Sometimes we think, “How the hell are we going to get things done?” The people I know and respect there, as well as our clients who appreciate what we are trying to do, keep us going.
Firiri was a few years old when two very intense earthquakes hit Nepal in 2015. Our operations were paralysed. There was minimal damage to our factories, but the majority of our workers had to return to their home towns to be with their families. Since then, morale has decreased and no one is motivated to do business as usual. Laura and I have been back to Kathmandu since. About 40 percent of the temples and many important elements of the country’s heritage are gone—it is incredibly sad—so feelings of dismay are understandable.
Nepal has an extremely rich culture, though, that will not be easily diminished. Collectivism is strong and people give more than they receive. I see similarities here in Barcelona when it comes to family and other close relations. But Barcelona is still a large city, where people don’t know who lives in the apartment above them and don’t care to learn the name of the woman who serves them their morning cortado. In Nepal, everyone knows everyone else in the neighbourhood. You don’t have to be related by blood to be family.