Showcasing the Best of Nepal

Text by Evangeline Neve

On stopping in at Evoke, in Jhamsikhel, for a quick bite to eat a few months ago, I couldn’t help but notice the attractive little shop just in front: The Local Project. My curiosity was piqued, but as it was closed, I could only peer in the windows. Fortunately, by the time I came out of the restaurant, the door was open, and I had a browse. Even before I started here at ECS NEPAL, I’ve always had a fascination with craft stores and markets; I’m always on the lookout for something new, original, different. Now, of course, I also am on a constant hunt for something new, original, and different to include in these pages.

That’s harder than you might imagine. Nepal has an amazingly wide variety of products, but as anyone who has lived here long can attest, after a while they start to feel a bit...samey. That’s why a place like The Local Project is such a breath of fresh air. They’ve really taken the idea of a craft store and turned in on its head by providing space for small, local artisans and companies to display and sell a diverse range of products. Some I’ve heard of before, like Arniko skateboards (and now apparel), and some, like Allare, we’ve even featured in the magazine already.

But there was enough that was surprising and new to keep me interested, and even products I’ve seen before were beautifully displayed inside the space and encouraged a second look. From Yatri Supply’s fascinating things you never knew you needed, Dinadi’s beautiful high-end scarves, hats and gloves hand-knitted from merino wool, and Meraki’s lovely jewelry, to Metalwood’s artsy take on things made of, well, metal and wood, there’s something here for everybody. I also saw some lovely, sturdy bags by Purnaa and Mheecha. Mheecha was a surprise to see—one of my colleagues here at ECS Media has had one of their colorful backpacks for months now; it’s wonderfully well-made and looks as good today as it ever did, and I was surprised to see it in the store—somehow I had just assumed from the design and durability that it was a foreign brand. I was glad to learn I was wrong. Kala Kathmandu showcases colorful and eclectic clocks—other things, too, but the clocks are really show-stopping originals. There were many more, of course, and I can’t possibly name them all, so you should go and have a gander through yourself. This place is really an example of, to quote another colleague, “Nepali crafts 2.0” and wonderful proof that Nepal can make products that are fashionable, forward thinking, high-quality, and more than able to compete in the international market.

With a limited amount of space in their shop, I guess it was inevitable that there would soon be more demand for shelf space than could be provided at The Local Project. So, founders Sachin Shrestha and Binam Shakya decided to expand into the great outdoors, and that’s how The Local Mini Market was born. Currently, it’s held each fortnight on Saturday between 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. in the courtyard/parking lot just outside Evoke and The Local Project itself. A friend and I were in the area and popped in on the day of their inaugural market, November 25, and I also returned two weeks later on December 9 to have a bit more of an in-depth look for this article.

I was pleased to see that there seemed just as much interest the second time around, which bodes well for its longevity. It varies from other Saturday markets currently being held—like the well-known one at Le Sherpa, for example—in that it is not primarily food based, though a few food products are available: bakery items, honey from the Beekeeping Shop, grains and beans from Jumla, and even a beer tasting, though Sachin told me that, generally, there will be wine tastings, not beer. No complaints there, I think most readers are with me in agreeing that any form of tastings are going to be popular and enjoyable, no matter the liquor served. A three-piece musical group was playing, a mixture of guitar and more traditional folk instruments; it wasn’t overpowering, and provided a nice backdrop to the bustle. There was also an easel set up by House of Palettes, where I saw artists young and old, professional and not-so-professional, joyfully practicing their skills in the open air.

The rest of the tables were taken up with various beautiful items of the sort that you might find on the shelves of The Local Project, if only they had more room. As Sachin explained, “The main motive of our shop is to give visibility to local vendors,” and they are just continuing to follow that ethos with the market, which doesn’t include products that are already stocked in the store (by the way, the shop is of course open for browsing this whole time, making it a sort of continuation of the market—or perhaps, the market a continuation of the store?)

Amidst some great jewelry and clothing on offer, The Mint Studio has some really stylish, well-made clothes, so check them out, too. I was drawn to Tyre Treasures—a bit hard to miss them, really, with their pile of colorful tires! Opened by a group of friends with a grant aimed at social enterprise start-ups, organized by NEHUB and funded by WWF, they’re aiming to make a dent in the huge amount of end-of-life tires that end up part of the trash-polluting problem once they’re too old to be driven on. The two products they had on display that day were colorful themed pet beds, with the center of the tire stuffed with recycled cotton and covered in natural fibers to make a cozy hang-out for your four-footed friends, and planters. You really should have a look at these products, as they are simple but ingenious, and while the beds might be more functional (and will make great gifts for anyone with animals, including to yourself), the planters struck me as a beautiful visual example of turning what would otherwise be ugly waste into something innovative and just plain beautiful. Again, a great, unique gift or décor for your outside space that is sure to turn heads and be a talking point.

Amongst other vendors that were new to me, I had a chance to meet Angeela Shrestha from Project Humane Nepal, that, to quote from their material, is “dedicated to raising awareness about dog welfare issues and empowering children to change the lives of animals around them, particularly stray dogs.” A noble and important goal, and even better is the joyfulness these young people have brought to their cause: their stall was bursting with bright, colorful mugs, notebooks, magnets, and bags—so cute I had to buy some, for myself, and for gifts. And, while I love my dog, I can’t help but mention the need to also include cats in the promotional material, or my two won’t let me in the house when I head home tonight!

On both of the days that I visited the market, there was a healthy turnout, and a good flow of people wandering in and out, plus enjoying brunch at Evoke. It was busier than I expected for such a new market, though not too hectic, which I enjoyed, and with a good mix of both locals and foreigners—lots of families out enjoying the day. The relaxed vibe is a plus for me; too crowded, and you lose some of the relaxed joy of browsing. It feels like a neighborhood market, and I hope it grows, giving space to lesser known designs and producers, and expanding as a hub for the neighborhood and beyond.

The Local Project's Mini Market is held every other Saturday; check their Facebook page to see if this is the week!