In 1993, while in her second year of college, Kate Fisher’s wanderlust adventure-loving ways started beckoning her to explore the world that existed outside of textbooks and classrooms. She was intrigued by the textiles and clothing she had seen return with friends from Nepal and India and with those cultures that seemed much simpler and more traditional than life in the United States. In many ways she romanticized how good life must be for people in those countries.
She bought a one-way ticket to Kathmandu and arrived in November of 1993 at age 21. In her first week in Kathmandu, Kate bought an assortment of soft goods and clothing and sent her purchases to friends in America to sell at markets and Grateful Dead shows. In these simple beginnings, partnerships and connections in Nepal were formed and the seeds of Synergy were born.
Two days into her Himalayan trek along part of the Annapurna Circuit, Kate stayed in a local teahouse where she met a young woman who would host and cook for Western trekkers in her family’s home. Kate recollects one particular encounter while staying with this young woman: “I was wearing braids like her and she pointed at my braids and at hers and said “same-same”. She asked me my age, I told her, and she pointed at herself and said “same-same”. She went on to ask where I was from and when I said California she pulled out a postcard that was sent to her from California and she had stars in her eyes showing it to me. It struck me how similar we were and yet how different. I romanticized coming to her country and visiting her homeland and she cherished the postcard from California and had dreams of visiting mine. Our difference became clear to me in that moment and was a huge lesson for me—I had the freedom to be able to come and go from Nepal and to get to choose my path in life, she would be lucky if she would get to visit Pokhara a large village about a five days walk from her home. I could see in that moment that her life was basically set. She would marry someone her family chose for her, have children and stay in her village in the mountains. I had the ability to come and go and to create and choose whatever life my heart felt called to live.”
As Synergy has grown over the years the mission to provide some financial empowerment and opportunity for people in Nepal, particularly for women so that they too could have more choices and freedom in their lives, has remained clear. At the core of Synergy Organic Clothing is the desire to strengthen future Nepali generations by providing these women with opportunities to build healthy futures for themselves and their children.
Kate Fisher, Henry Schwab, and their children visiting our Nepal factory 2 weeks before the 2015 earthquake