Paila Shoes: Promoting and Preserving Nepali Culture and Economy

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Paila Shoes: Promoting and Preserving Nepali Culture and Economy


Locally manufactured shoes cover around 60 per cent of the Nepalese footwear market today. The market which previously used to be dominated by imported products is steadily growing. According to the Footwear Manufacturer’s Association in Nepal (FMAN), the market is expected to grow up to 80 percent by 2020. The inclination of Nepali consumers towards local products has ensured a promising market for the increasing number of Nepalese footwear brands in Nepal.

Paila is a local footwear brand looking to tap into this very promise with shoes produced from natural hand-loom fabric, founded by Mingma Diki Sherpa in 2015. The name Paila, means a step in Nepali, reflects Sherpa’s own “paila” towards sustainability and promotion of the local economy and culture. In this story, we explore Sherpa’s journey in establishing Paila as a brand.



The beginning of a new journey

After working for 10 years in different non-profit organizations, Mingma Diki Sherpa decided to move onto something she was always interested in- designing. Her interest in designing took her to different places exploring varied facets of craftsmanship and aesthetics. One such country that fascinated her to the core was Italy. On the streets of Italy, Sherpa came across craftsmen embedding inspirational designs into regular shoes. This is where she envisioned a designer footwear that played with colors and fabrics revisiting traditional patterns unique to the country.

Sherpa looks to subtly incorporate the rich culture of Nepal into her modern designs in a fusion that can inspire new trends. Locally sourced Nepali Dhaka and cotton fabrics are directly incorporated in her products. When Sherpa returned to Nepal, she got introduced to Allo, known as Himalayan Nettle.

Allo is a weaving fiber used for clothing and bags by the indigenous communities Nepal. It has become an easily attainable natural replacement for wool. Moreover, the demand for Allo fiber has made for excellent employment opportunities for women and small-scale farmers,” shares Sherpa.

Getting introduced to Himalayan Nettle paved way for her vision to turn into reality, thus forming the foundation for today’s Paila.


A unique approach

As she was the first to use Allo in that manner, getting the sizes, design and finishing correct without compromising on the comfort and quality of the products was the biggest challenge for Sherpa. After testing her shoes on the chaotic streets of Kathmandu, she got the confidence that her shoes could last the test of time. With everything in place, Sherpa invested her savings and brought Paila into existence as a stylish yet exclusive footwear brand.

What was initially an online company, Paila quickly expanded and established a store in Dhobighat. They now employ three full time artisans who help bring Sherpa’s designs into a comforting reality of shoes.

Her designs represent the diverse culture of Nepal. Paila Bakhu is inspired by the traditional attire of the Sherpas. Paila Terrace incorporates the scenic terrace farming practiced in Nepal with colors influenced by the transitioning colors of nature. Further, the newer Paila Himali Sandals are representations of belts tied around the necks of Himalayan yaks. For more modern, trendier looks, there are Paila Lace Up Sandals and Paila Lace Up Shoes.


Creating a sustainable enterprise

All the materials used in the production of Paila Shoes are biodegradable, fulfilling their promise of being the first eco-friendly footwear manufacturer in Nepal. The fabrics used for the shoes are natural and cruelty-free fabrics, with the soles being made out of recycled plastic and rubber. Sherpa has employed KTM Couriers, an all bicycle pickup/delivery company, for delivery services to further uphold Paila’s environment friendly promise.

Mingma Diki Sherpa os striving to merge quality, design, and ethics. Paila, as a manufacturer of footwear and its simple initiatives for sustainability, has gone beyond its tangible products. They have benefited local communities, maximized value for customers, and reduced their carbon footprints. Sustainability through promotion and preservation of culture, as such, has become the essence of Paila.


On being a Nepal made footwear manufacturer

According to Sherpa, Nepali consumers are skeptical about local brands and many lack the understanding that local products are as good, reliable and durable as imported goods. This misconception, at times, has forced local brands like Paila to rely on exports to sustain their businesses. But with the gradual change in customer perception, Sherpa is hopeful that someday Paila, along with other local brands, will make a significant place in the Nepalese market.

Looking to the future, Sherpa with her artisans is working on the feedback received and also plans on bringing out more designs in the future. “However”, stresses Sherpa, “Using a completely different material requires a distinctly new process and procedure. The sampling and testing can be time consuming.”

Continuing with their initiative may obstruct the growth of Paila, but Sherpa plans to stick to it. She believes conscious consumers looking for sustainable products are increasing and will eventually recognize the true value of the brand. The sustainable and socially responsible business model will be more useful as consumers become more aware and considerate.


  • Guest
    David Sharma Wednesday, 30 August 2017

    "All the materials used in the production of Paila Shoes are biodegradable....The fabrics used for the shoes are natural and cruelty-free fabrics, with the soles being made out of recycled plastic and rubber." My question is, if you used recycled plastic then how come it became biodegradable? Isn't this sentence argumentative?

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