Abode of Snow Tells the Stories of the Himalayas Through Fashion

Abode of Snow Tells the Stories of the Himalayas Through Fashion

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Abode of Snow Tells the Stories of the Himalayas Through Fashion

Tapping into their background in fashion and media, Tenzin Wild and Tao Okamoto are weaving together the culture of the East, one outerwear piece at a time.

Tapping into their background in fashion and media, Tenzin Wild and Tao Okamoto are weaving together the culture of the East, one outerwear piece at a time.

Photography: Max Papendieck

Styling: Aryeh Lappin

Text: Gautam Balasundar

"It's not enough to just try and sell product," says Tenzin Wild, co-founder of the new outerwear label Abode of Snow. "The only authentic way is to tell the story behind it." Stories are the driving force behind the new endeavor which he launched with his wife Tao Okamoto in 2020. Having worked in fashion for most of his adult life—most notably as the Editor-in-Chief of The Last Magazine and as the co-founder of the creative agency Berger & Wild—he began to consider how he can weave his Tibetan heritage into his industry. "Really the motivation of the whole thing was starting from a cultural standpoint," he says. "How can we keep the story of the Himalayas alive, and speak to it in a natural way?"

Varsha wears coat Abode of Snow, Courtesy of Albright Fashion Library: Turtleneck Balenciaga, Scarf, worn in hair, vintage archive

Three years later that idea materialized into Abode of Snow. The debut collection consists of three carefully considered outerwear styles, but Wild and Okamoto had always devised the brand with minimal output in mind. "It makes sense. It's harder, it takes a little more thinking of how you can make a timeless pattern, and then just tweak it. That's the goal; of course we need to bring out new styles here and there, but it will always be a limited number." The collection features the Chuba parka based on traditional Tibetan coats, the Lhasa 4-way parka with a contemporary style, and the Mila recycled down jacket which brings a striking cross-body button closure to the classic puffer.

Charlie wears jacket Abode of Snow, Turtleneck Vayre. Courtesy of Albright Fashion Library: Leggings Jacquemus, faux fur Hat Eric Javits

The 'less is more' attitude towards products came from the pair's desire to build Abode of Snow with environmental consciousness in mind. They paid as close attention to sourcing as they did to design. "In terms of outerwear, most of the brands use sporty, technical fabrics," Wild notes. "But why does it have to be that? Why can't we work with organic materials—potentially biodegradable materials—if possible." They used organic cottons, yak (never shaved and only collected as it sheds naturally), and recycled synthetics—and are continuously finding better materials as they grow their brand, such as a vegan, plant-based down alternative they are beginning to incorporate. For Okamoto, she only had to look to her native country Japan, where brands have been embracing sustainability. "We have great artisans, and craftsmanship, so it was a whole new discovery," she says. "I'm able to find those factories and people who are trying to go as sustainable as they can be in Japan. I want to find those people all over the world. Japanese people are very conscious about it, which I'm very proud of."

Chiharu wears jacket Abode of Snow, Courtesy of Albright Fashion Library: Turtleneck Balenciaga, Leggings Jacquemus, Gloves Marni,  faux fur Hat Eric Javits

Wild also found something to aspire to in his travels through Japan with Okamoto. "I saw all these microbrands that have been around for years, and they're still there, they sustain themselves, and that's all it takes. They stay very true to what they're doing, and they have a very loyal base, and I think that's what we want to aim for." In choosing such a particular path for fashion, Wild and Okamoto have embraced the small, artisan style of creating that is increasingly becoming the preferred fashion route. "10 years ago, if you remember, all the new designers that came up aspired to be the next mega-designer," Wild recalls. "When is the next IPO? Everyone was talking money and investors." Wild and Okamoto will be the first to admit that they're not designers by trade, but their experience in the fashion world has given them the perspective to skip the trappings of the industry in favor of a deeply cultural and personal project that happens to be expressed through clothing. "If young and up-and-coming designers understand what is their ultimate business goal and financial goal, I think they can have a really fun ride with it," Wild says. "They can actually enjoy the process more, and not have the financial pressure, and investor pressure, and growth pressure, and rather stick to what you know and do it well. Just create one piece at a time.

Peter wears coat Abode of Snow, Turtleneck Vayre and Varsha wears coat Abode of Snow. Courtesy of Albright Fashion Library: Turtleneck Balenciaga, Scarf, worn in hair, vintage archive
Credits: Models: Chiharu Okunugi (The Society), Varsha Tharpa (The Society), Peter Meyer (IMG Models), Charlie Knepper (DNA); Makeup: Maki Ryoke; Hair Stylist: Ben Skervin; Manicurist: Eri Handa; Photo Assistants: Dean Dodos and Taryn Anderson

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