I came to America sixteen years ago, knowing no one and bringing nothing but the hopes of pursuing my passion to become a fashion designer. In my homeland of Nepal, I was constantly told how different I was, a reminder that I did not fit the mold of my all-boys school. America gave me the opportunity to be my truest self — a creator — and the fashion industry gave me the home I needed to see my dreams realized.
Fashion is my language of choice. It is how I share my passions, my views. And the fashion industry, which has provided me with nothing but love and support for the past seven and a half years, has enabled me to make people think and to change a few minds by using my platform to be an activist for causes I care about. It has allowed me to make clothes that don't just hang on a hanger, but are also tools for opportunity and empowerment, for the women who make them and the women who wear them. In my short career, the industry has allowed me to advocate for my organization Shikshya Foundation Nepal, which brings complete education to children in my homeland. I am grateful to be able to do what I love.
Despite the opportunity and potential that I see in this industry, many others look at the fashion industry as being fake and frivolous. For me, it has been anything but; I see it as my mission to introduce new terminology into the language of fashion and reshape the common understanding of the industry and the women we dress.
As I reflect on the current situation in our country, a country that runs rampant with the othering of certain groups, I can't help but feel we are missing the point. This is supposed to be a country of acceptance, a country that is proud of being a melting pot of cultures. If I, a boy from Nepal with no industry or family connections, was welcomed into this country and accepted for my unique point of view, then shouldn't we provide the same courtesy to others as well? Shouldn't this feeling of inclusion extend to the women our industry serves? If fashion is a celebration of each of us, then all of us, not just those who fit society's ideal of beauty, should be celebrated.
Last winter, I was at a trunk show in Palm Beach — showing a collection to women in an intimate setting with our retail partners is one of my favorite parts of my job. I remember there was a curvier woman, amid a sea of sample-size ladies, who looked at and touched the samples with such a deep longing and desire for them. I encouraged her to touch them and even try them on, yet she could not bring herself to in fear that they would not fit, and therefore she still felt like an outsider looking in on the other women dressing up.
Not long after the trunk show, I sat on a panel that discussed issues around diversity on the runway. Our industry was being lauded for supposedly coming such a long way — our runways are more racially diverse than ever and have begun to habitually feature models who are transgender or gender-fluid. A woman from the audience raised the question of size, or rather the apparent lack of size diversity, pointing to a major hole in our industry. Our panel gave a dismissive "We'll eventually get to you ..." response, then moved on, as though the strides we had already made by being diverse in other ways made it OK to ignore the majority of American women.
As someone who was always seen as "different," I am well acquainted with the feeling that my needs were not mainstream enough to be met by society. I know what it feels like to be slighted, and I'm embarrassed that we as an industry have overlooked hundreds of millions of women.
Since the beginning, we have made our clothes available from a size 0 to a size 22; however, it is only the zeros through eights that get picked up by the retailers and hang beneath the chandeliers and above the marble floors on Fifth Avenue. Our goal has always been to create a luxury brand with a soul. We are striving toward becoming more sustainable; we pride ourselves on our social responsibility and accomplishments in Nepal; and above all, we want to be inclusive.