From Leh to London – how two friends are keeping alive the art and influences of the Silk Route
From Leh, Ladakh, entrepreneurs Padma Yangchen and Jigmet Diskit are reviving Ladakhi identity through traditional costumes and cuisine.
The valleys and mountains of Ladakh may be getting all the love and admiration from tourists the world over but Padma Yangchen and Jigmet Diskit, hope to showcase its cultural experiences through their venture, Namza Couture - Namza being the honorific Tibetan word for costume.
They started Namza Couture in 2016, to offer exquisite Ladakhi costumes with traditional fabric but with modern designs. In 2019, Nazma Couture presented its Autumn/Winter Collection at the 2019 London Fashion Week.
Putting Ladakh on the map
Artisans in the Himalayan region are at the centre of the entrepreneurs’ quest to revive traditional designs by giving them a contemporary appeal.
Namza Couture uses wool from sheep, yak, and camel that are handwoven into traditional fabric and textiles symbolic of the region. They are then taken to its factory in Delhi to design the costumes. The process also involves thikma, an indegenous tie-dye method that adds natural colours to fabric.
Depending on the time taken and complexity of the process, prices range between Rs 12,000 and Rs 5 lakh. Catering to upper class women, WhatsApp for Business has become an important channel for the entrepreneurs to stay in touch with their clientele.
“has played a key role in continuing one-on-one conversations to understand clients needs’, especially during the pandemic when we have to avoid public interaction. It helps build trust and an intimate client relationship. As digital platforms are now becoming the most preferred mode for shopping, WhatsApp does help in building a more realistic connection with customers,” they say.
They also have a bespoke store in Delhi that serves clients by appointments only.
They also operate a boutique cum cafe called Namza Dining in an attempt to document lost recipes at their headquarters in Leh, Ladakh. With a private kitchen garden practising sustainable agriculture, the duo claims its “menu is a tribute to the long-forgotten tradition of preparing a hearty feast for the weary silk route travellers”.
Padma holds a master’s in fashion design and began exploring the textile industry of Ladakh as a student. She later interned with designer Rohit Bal before working as a stylist at renowned fashion magazines like Femina and Cosmo.
Disket, on the other hand, is a BTech graduate who has interned at the Defense Research Development Organization (DRDO) where she developed an interest in the natural dyeing process while studying the effects of high altitude on growth and pigmentation of floral diversity of Ladakh.
“A clear strategy is important and we are embracing the fact that uncertainty is part of a business and we can always take actions to mitigate those risks,” Jigmet says.
Moving ahead, they are looking to restore a two centuries’ old ancestral house near Leh Palace and turn it into a studio. They also hope to be the first to venture into designing Ladakhi jewellery.
This story is part of a series spotlighting extraordinary, inspiring women from different walks of life for the See Us, Hear Us campaign powered by WhatsApp for International Women’s Day.
You can read more such stories from the month-long campaign here.
Edited by Rekha Balakrishnan