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Discovering the Ancient Wisdom of the Modern Brand

Nathaniel Martin is a freelance photographer based out of British Columbia’s Sunshine Coast. He uses photography as a conduit to convey stories and connect people. His work is often centred around wild spaces and those who are drawn to them.

Words: Olivier Lasselle, Altitude Sports writer

Discovering the Ancient Wisdom of the Modern Brand

Discovering the Ancient Wisdom of the Modern Brand

Exploring Nepal with Sherpa Adventure Gear.

Located on the outskirts of Kathmandu Valley, there are a number of legends surrounding the construction of the Boudhanath Stupa. One Tibetan Buddhist myth says that in the 14th century a local buffalo farmer wanted to build a stupa (a temple for meditation) but she did not have the land. The King told her if she brought him a piece of buffalo skin, she could build a stupa the same size. The farmer, seeing the single piece of skin for more than it was, cut it along the edges until it unravelled into a single thread that expanded far beyond its original form. Today the Boudha Stupa remains one of the largest in the world.

Prayer flags hanging from the dome flutter in the wind on this mild March day as Mingma Sherpa tells us the story of the buffalo farmer. A brand ambassador for Sherpa Adventure Gear, and an owner of one of the brand’s stores in Nepal, Mingma is our guide and shares the city’s fascinating history as we move through narrow streets and bustling marketplaces.

Prayer flags hanging from the Boudhanath Stupa.
Sherpa Adventure Gear has a rich heritage that goes back far beyond its origins in 2003
Sherpa Adventure Gear has a rich heritage that goes back far beyond its origins in 2003.
Youtube Video

Sherpa Adventure Gear has a rich heritage that goes back far beyond its origins in 2003. Founded by Tashi Sherpa as a way of paying tribute to the sherpas, the mountain guides and “unsung heroes of Everest,” the brand has become more than just a maker of outdoor apparel. Sherpa wants to make an impact, and over the years they have shown that there is as much focus on where the clothing is from as where the clothing can take you.

The modern brand pays tribute to the ancient wisdom of its heritage by featuring the prayer flags and the infinity knot on its clothing, but is also well-positioned to look towards the future. The world knows sherpa as Himalayan mountain guides, taking the lead on expeditions through treacherous ice walls and snow covered cliffs, ensuring those who follow in their steps have solid ground to stand on. Embracing their wisdom, Sherpa Adventure Gear is building solid ground for present and future Nepalese generations.

  • Discovering the Ancient Wisdom of the Modern Brand
  • Discovering the Ancient Wisdom of the Modern Brand
  • Discovering the Ancient Wisdom of the Modern Brand
  • Discovering the Ancient Wisdom of the Modern Brand
    An evening stroll through the tourist district of Thamel.
  • Discovering the Ancient Wisdom of the Modern Brand
  • Discovering the Ancient Wisdom of the Modern Brand
    Prayer wheels in a Buddhist Temple.
  • Discovering the Ancient Wisdom of the Modern Brand
    Preparing the yarn for the knitters.

Knitwear is an important part of Nepalese heritage, and the Women’s Knitting Factory, part of the Sherpa family since early on, is an important part of the brand’s identity. The program provides employment to the women of Nepal and is responsible for producing the brand’s wool hats and knit products.

Knitters like Rita are able to come to the factory and spend time with friends, knitting and contributing to Sherpa’s unique line of products that blend modern technical apparel with artisanal heritage wear. But their contributions go far beyond the clothing you see in the store.

  • Discovering the Ancient Wisdom of the Modern Brand
    Rita works at the women’s knitting factory.
  • Discovering the Ancient Wisdom of the Modern Brand
    Yarn brought in from New Zealand.

Despite being at ease navigating Kathmandu’s labyrinthine streets, Mingma is from a small mountain village called Namche Bazaar in the Solukhumbu District, whose most famous landmark is the mighty Everest. This region also happens to be the place where all the students from Sherpa’s Scholarship program are from—like Mingma and Tashi, they carry the Sherpa name, indiginous to the eastern regions of Nepal, like the Solukhumbu District. Selected from small villages by a committee that includes Mingma and his wife, the students have been given the opportunity to study at a boarding school in Kathmandu, funded by the proceeds from the sales of every single piece of Sherpa gear and apparel. The program started with only a handful of students, and now numbers almost a dozen. As the company grows, so too will the program.

Discovering the Ancient Wisdom of the Modern Brand
The students have the opportunity to study at a boarding school in Kathmandu, funded by the proceeds from the sales of every single piece of Sherpa gear and apparel.

Sherpa Adventure Gear started out as a small company, and is now a global brand. Tashi, the founder, saw the potential to do more than just manufacture clothing. Through the Sherpa Adventure Gear Fund, close to a dozen students from remote villages in the Himalayas have the chance to attend school and earn an education. In working with the women’s factory, Sherpa has given local women the chance to earn additional income for their families.

Expansion and recycling initiatives have created Sherpa’s modern facilities, and ensured excess fabric from their clothing can be given a second life—it’s no coincidence that Sherpa’s main logo, the endless knot, represents reincarnation. They look to the past, present, and future for inspiration, and most of all they understand the impact that a single thread can have, because, in their own words, Sherpa is “a small brand committed to making a big impact.”

  • Discovering the Ancient Wisdom of the Modern Brand

Discovering the Ancient Wisdom of the Modern Brand

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