She is talented and passionate. She dreams of making a difference by enabling the artisans of Nepal to unleash their true potential. Eta Shrestha is an entrepreneur who established her own brand, Tissah, to create quality products in Nepal. From handbags to jewelries, she makes products that are inspired by the Nepali culture and each product has its own unique story to tell. Swasti Gautam spoke to Shrestha to know Tissah’s story beyond its attractive showroom at Lazimpat, Kathmandu.
What is Tissah?
Tissah is a handmade, slow fashion-jewelry and accessories line. Tissah works with local Nepali artisans to create thoughtful pieces that one can treasure for years to come.
From handbags, purses, jewelries to passport covers, Tissah has limited yet unique designs which runs with the theme ‘Treasure Yourself’. At the core of Tissah’s brand is the desire to make women realize their self-worth and to appreciate themselves.
What is the idea behind the startup?
I started Tissah with the desire to create. For me, a great part of the appeal of any good product is the story behind it – how it was created and who created it. In a world so consumed with fast fashion, where everything seems to be mass-produced, I wanted to create a little more space and appreciation for handcrafted pieces. Nepal is known for art and architecture, so Tissah is an attempt to translate that skill into classic pieces and wearable art.
How did Tissah come into being?
I always had a desire to create but it wasn’t until 2011 that I gave it a name. I’m thankful to my every-supportive family and my amazing group of friends, who gave me the much-needed push to start Tissah. I'm also grateful to my team and the many clients who have believed in Tissah from the early stages, and kept it going.
In late 2014, I moved back to Nepal from the US and started working on Tissah in a more organized manner. Last year, we opened our first showroom at Hotel Ambassador in Lazimpat, which is a milestone for us.
Tell us about your products.
Tissah makes thoughtful and timeless pieces that people can treasure. Our products have a touch of Nepali-ness, and the various cultures that inspire us, all while relating to a global audience.
Today when most of the brands are rapidly creating new products and design and encouraging fast fashion, Tissah believes in the counter-movement of slow fashion. Slow fashion means that we will take time to create a product in a responsible manner. We spend our time and capital on individual artisans and entrepreneurs of Nepal to create pieces that not only look good but feel good too.
What goes on behind the makings of a Tissah product?
It all starts with inspiration and it takes shape as I work into conceptualization with research, sketches, and experimentation. I build a prototype with my team, and then work closely with the artisans to make a sample. I personally use the sample to test form, functionality, and aesthetics. I, along with my team, re-evaluate the sample and make the necessary changes before going into production. So a lot of thought, time, and energy go into the making of a Tissah product. And until I am absolutely in love with the product, it doesn’t get included in the Tissah line.
Who are your target customers?
I think Tissah appeals to a range of personal styles and moods, and women of different ages, backgrounds and walks of life. While our customers are different in many ways, they all appreciate the quality, workmanship and fair trade ethics behind the brand, and are willing to invest in themselves. So, I would say that a Tissah woman is a real woman, with beautiful human imperfections, and confident of her self-worth.
Can you tell us about the challenges of being a woman entrepreneur?
I think starting a business is challenging regardless of gender but in a patriarchal society, like ours, women have further battles to fight. Many people in our society would rather deal businesses with a man and I have felt that often times I’m not taken seriously simply because I’m a woman. In many ways, I know the society is becoming more acceptable but until then you just have to grow a thick skin and not let gender inhibit or hold you back.
What advice would you like to give to young and budding entrepreneurs?
I would say that don't let your age, or gender stop you from pursuing anything. And whatever you do, make sure your vision is true to yourself. It will never be an easy journey. There will be many challenges but stay self-motivated, work hard and have that persistence to move forward with your convictions. And, above all, do not forget to try to manifest your dreams through your actions because that is the only key to success.