Erina Shrestha launched her brand Lakhey Nepal at the age of 23. The young designer and entrepreneur aims on establishing a brand that represents the vivid Nepali culture. Mostly inspired by vintage fashion, Lakhey Nepal incorporates Nepali fabrics with contemporary modern daily wear designs that makes them stand out from the other local brands. In a conversation with Erina, WOW’s Anushka Shrestha finds out more about Lakhey Nepal. Excerpts:
What’s the story behind ‘Lakhey Nepal’?
When I was thinking of starting my own brand I wanted to give it an authentic name that would carry its own identity rather than giving it my name like most brands do. I wanted my brand to represent our Nepali community, cultures and beliefs. I want my brand to be relatable to everyone, not just with fashion but with memories and emotions that come with the name. A truly Made In Nepal brand.
What made you choose a career in fashion?
I always wanted to pursue fashion designing as a career. I was fascinated with the creative works of designers. Lucky that I got to travel a lot in my early years because of which I got to see the works of foreign designers. Back then, I didn’t know much about the fashion industry but since I enrolled for my Bachelors degree in Fashion, I saw opportunities and doors open as it is a vast industry.
How do infuse the Nepali touch in your designs?
We bring a lot of inspiration from vintage Nepali silhouettes that were worn by Nepali royalties and film artistes back in the days. Our AW 19 coats are a good example of it. Also, we use Nepali fabrics and in-house design patterns to create a unique look.
Tell us about the fabrics you use?
We make our own fabrics, at least most of them. Besides the silk and velvet materials in our designs everything is made by us and customised for our collection. We outsource from a factory in Bhaktapur and have been doing that since the initial days of Lakhey. In terms of the artisans and production workers, it’s all about being at the right time and place and knowing what you want and asking for it.
You started the brand at the age of 23, what has the journey been like?
I have learnt a lot. I was a newbie when I started and had zero idea about the business aspect of fashion. I always say that I am a fashion designer who accidentally became an entrepreneur. My parents have helped me immensely with working on finances and business strategies. I took help from my mentors about planning and marketing. The starting year was difficult, building trust with factories and people was hard because I was young and they saw me as a hobby centric brand which isn’t true. I have always been passionate about my brand since day one. Eventually, they saw my work and how I was focused on building this brand. Then, I earned their trust and now we are one of the most loved brands. I am still on this journey and in the process of learning more and getting better.
How are your current designs different from your first collection?
We have definitely improved in terms of both quality and design. In our recent collection, we have used a lot of colour compared to our first collection. I think all our collections are different. We have more varieties and comfort wear as well. In the beginning we were mostly focused on smart wear. Now we are into statement designs such as our Madhubani hand printed shirt and casual street wear mostly lean towards vintage silhouettes. We hope to provide more variants and good wearable designs in the coming future.
How challenging is it to sustain as a local brand?
Every brand has its own unique quality and trademark that makes it appealing to their buyers. I don’t know about it being difficult or easy to sustain but for every brand across indutries, the first few months are very challenging. You have to prove to your buyers you are worth the money or the service you are providing. Once that thing is achieved it gets a lot better, definitely with proper planning and team work. If you can’t figure out your strength by then, then it’s difficult to sustain.
In a space where many clothing brands exist, how do you distinguish Lakhey Nepal?
At Lakhey, from the beginning to the end product which means from the yarn making process to the manufacturing of garments, it’s all done in Nepal. We don’t source our fabrics from foreign countries. We make them here itself. We are a true Nepali brand. Also, the silhouettes we use are mostly inspired from vintage fashion worn by royalties of Nepal. We are incorporating Nepali fabrics with contemporary modern daily wear designs that make us unique from other Nepali brands.
Tell us something about Lakhey baby?
Lakhey baby is a sub brand of Lakhey Nepal. We focus on baby wear. We are trying to make the brand ethical and sustainable. We launched it last year with limited varieties of designs due to Covid. Lakhey baby hasn’t had a chance to launch officially and we are planning on re-branding this year for the winter collection. We use skin friendly fabrics for this brand. Currently, we have baby bed sets and Nepali bhoto clothing wear, and are planning on adding more designs and accessories which will be launched in November 2021.
Any plans on going international with your brand?
Definitely! We recently did a mock up shoot in Amsterdam with the help of a friend. Lakhey Nepal was loved by them and the shoot was successful. We have a few plans for the coming future. Hopefully everything goes well. Fingers crossed!