Whether or not you see yourself as an eco-bride, I would love to tell you about the incredible designer behind my eco wedding dress.
Sanyukta Shrestha runs the wedding dress boutique, Behuli by Sanyukta Shrestha in Fulham and today’s special Q&A will help showcase the amazing story about who Sanyukta is and the ethical side of her business that makes it very unique in today’s wedding industry.
Here she is and if you want to know more about her and the ethical fashion she pioneers, please get in touch. You can also check out the website for her boutique wedding shop in Fulham at SanyuktaShrestha.com
Over to you Sanyukta…
Tell us about yourself – how did you get into the fashion world?
I grew up in Nepal and at just 17, I created the dress Miss Nepal wore in the 1998 Miss World pageant. This truly was a milestone in my journey as a fashion designer and remains a very special moment in the early memories of my career. From this, I went on to be awarded Best Designer for my first ever design, and this really opened up the doors to the fashion world for me.
The first wedding dress I designed was for my sister in 1999, which was a mesmerising moment for me as a designer. After graduating from The London College of Fashion, I worked in the Bridal and retail industry in the UK for 5 years. From this, I was able to gain enough experience to then open up my own bridal label in 2011.
It has been an amazing journey since then and I feel incredibly honoured to have been awarded several times. It makes it even more special to receive an award for something I truly believe in and I am absolutely passionate about. It’s very fulfilling to be able to bring out the inner beauty of the bride on the most special day of her life.
How did you ‘make it’ in London?
I would say it was my passion and enthusiastic drive that carried me through ‘making it’ in London. London is of course one of the fashion capitals of the world, filled with such a vast array of inspiration. Being a designer also means that you have to keep your finger on the pulse and working in London makes that possible.
I’d graduated from the London College of Fashion (studying a Post Grad in Fashion) and I was eager to learn and gain experience from a variety of international companies. Having an internship at renowned British designer, Jenny Packham has been an invaluable experience. I also began working as an official designer for Princess of the World UK 2010, Christina Jenkins for ‘Princess of the World 2010’ and for Miss England 2009, as well as Kirsty Nichol for ‘Miss Globe 2010’. Being involved in these competitions definitely helped to carve my profile as an international designer here in London.
During the beginning of my journey in the UK, my company was selected amongst 20 sustainable businesses in Greater London ‘Aimed for the next generation of socially and environmentally aware fashion businesses’ by the Centre for Sustainable Fashion. I also received special reception from the UK’s Culture Minister Ed Vaizey for my collection during the Ecoluxe, London fashion week in 2011. It feels fantastic to be recognised for something I’m so passionate about and for what I believe in. This really helped carve my profile even more within the sustainable fashion world on an international level.
How would you describe the style of your dresses?
I would describe my dresses as vintage inspired, simplistic, elegant and individualistic. It has been my desire for many years to create beautiful signature designs that are luxurious, indulgent and unique, but also sustainable and fair trade. I believe in reflecting the individual through my designs. For me, feeling amazing is just as important as looking amazing!
Where do you find your inspiration?
In my dreams! I am a vivid dreamer and a lot of the time I find myself waking up in the middle of the night and quickly sketching a new creation. Brides also inspire me greatly, with their infectious personalities and unique opinions. I find my surroundings also inspire my work as I have been privileged enough to visit many amazing places on this beautiful earth.
Fashion design is a constant learning process and trends keep on changing. Nevertheless, as a bridal designer I have to interpret traditional designs into modern creations that stand the test of time. I think ultimately, that is what I aim for every time I begin working on new pieces.
When did you realise that you wanted to bring an ethical side to your business?
I was born in Nepal and grew up surrounded by nature and hardworking people. This inspired my ethos ‘Love Green – Believe in Ethics’. In my early years as a designer, aged 19, I worked as a volunteer for the Women’s Rehabilitation Centre (WOREC Nepal) and World Wildlife Fund (WWF) Nepal and that astonishing journey enthused me to bring an ethical side to my business.
I have been aware of the fact that the use of harmful chemicals – whether it’s growing cotton or making polyester fibres or illegally poaching wildlife for fashion purposes – are negatively affecting thousands of people’s lives, millions of birds and animals each year. As a person and as a designer, I feel responsible for what I do and the decision I make in my life and my career. I feel it is my obligation to take good care of the people who are involved in my company and although my initiation to save our environment might be small, it can have a great positive effect on someone’s life.
For these reasons I decided to use eco-friendly and fair-traded fabrics. Eco-fabrics, are not only protecting our environment, are also softer and kinder to the skin and also possess nourishing qualities. They allow the skin to breathe properly and keep the body at a balanced temperature (keeping you cool in summer and warm in winter). Some of these fibres, like hemp, are resistant to UV light, mould and mildew, salt water and abrasion. Fabric like bamboo has anti-bacterial properties, which makes it extremely suitable for healthy clothing, especially for sensitive skins. I wanted my dresses to not only look luxurious, but also feel luxurious.
Can you explain why your dresses are ‘eco-dresses’?
The dresses are made from eco fabrics such as organic cotton, hemp silk, milk, silk and bamboo. The used fabrics in my collections have skin nourishing properties. Each style within my collection follows ecologically green guidelines, with fabrics coming from ethical and Fair Trade certified producers around the world. Many of them are hand spun and hand loomed fabrics from Nepal, which is now the soul of many of my gowns. My decision to use these natural fibres in the collection underlines my commitment to environment and development. Through blending sustainability with my ethical beliefs, I also try to create opportunities for village women in Nepal, by merging and turning their traditional skills into delicate fabrics and designs.
How else do your dresses help your home country of Nepal?
By merging and turning the traditional skills of Nepalese village women into delicate fabrics and exquisite designs, it is my aim to create opportunities for women in this area of the world. We do this not only by raising awareness, but also by ensuring that their traditions are upheld. Whenever I can make them smile by ensuring they are continually able to do something that they love and enable them to provide for themselves, I feel that I have truly achieved something wonderful in my career.
Last year in April a terrifying earthquake devastated the county and changed the life of so many people in Nepal. With my heritage, I was deeply worried by the news. Soon after the tragic events I started a fundraiser with the goal of supporting the weavers who work ever so passionately to create the unique fabrics that we then use to create one-of-a-kind bridal gowns. In addition, as continued support, 10% of all sales from the Eco Goddess and Ameya Flower Girl Collection will go directly to aid relief.
(To help Sanyukta reach her £5,000 fundraising target via Fashion for Relief Nepal, you can donate here)
How do you want brides to feel when they wear your dresses?
I want my brides to feel so beautiful – more beautiful than they have ever felt before. But I also want them to feel relaxed and like themselves and the dress should reflect their personality. It is an overwhelming feeling each time a bride finds her dress. The sparkle in her eyes and the excitement on her face are moments that a designer lives for. Making someone feel stunning and special is a truly wonderful accomplishment.
What’s been your most favourite dress you’ve designed?
This is a very hard question to answer. It is probably like asking a mother who her favourite child is. And like a mother is proud of every child, I am proud of every design.
How do you help your brides choose the right dress?
As a designer I always work to bring out the inner beauty and personality of a woman who wears my design. Individuality has always been the first priority in my design process. Bringing out the innate beauty of a woman to make her feel and look the most stunning woman in the world is my forte. I help brides understand their body types and what shape works best for them.
A bride’s vision, emotion and ‘once in a lifetime’ dreams are essential to me when I help my brides find their dream wedding dress.
Can you tell me about your bespoke wedding dress service?
I want my brides to have the dress of their dreams. Brides come to me with their vision and I feel incredibly grateful that they trust me with realising their dream. As a trusted designer it is my duty to design a dress that is flattering and compliments the beauty and individuality of the bride.
What’s the one piece of advice you would give brides during their wedding dress journey?
The best advice I would give any bride-to-be, is to keep an open mind when it comes to choosing the wedding dress. Everyone is different, we all have different personalities and unique shapes, sizes and curves.
The ‘dream dress’ a bride-to-be has seen on another bride or model might not necessarily be the right dress for her. A wedding dress should be ‘beauty with comfort’ and brides should follow their heart and not trends. The perfect wedding dress is the one that reflects your personality, compliments your figure and most importantly, is the one you feel most comfortable in. So stay true to yourself and stick to the shapes you know work. You should feel beautiful and happy while you are wearing it.
Until next time x
Thank you to Sanyukta Shrestha for taking part in this Q&A for Oh So Hitched. You can find more information about Behuli by Sanyukta Shrestha at SanyuktaShrestha.com. You can also follow her on twitter @sanyuktashresth, Facebook Pinterest and instagram.