“It’s been a year since I gave wings to my dreams and it has only been learning to fly,” says Erina Shrestha, the founder of Lakhey Nepal. Let’s look into the journey of Lakhey Nepal that is changing the way we perceive our Nepali Fashion Industry.
1. you please tell us about the journey of Lakhey Nepal?
Doing bachelor’s in Fashion and learning about various Indian textiles really motivated me to follow my childhood dream of being a fashion designer. Fashion Designing is not just about pattern making, there is so much more. It involves blending varieties of colors together, deciding on fabrics, styling, illustrating and so on. After bachelors, I knew I wanted to have my own brand but wasn’t sure where and how to start. So after internships with some companies working on Nepali Fabrics, I got to learn more about the production, quality checking, and packing aspects.
Moreover, Made in Nepal products are always considered to be of inferior quality. But the fact is that popular brands like H&M and Zara outsource their production to countries like Nepal. So, there is no point in saying that the products made in Nepal are bad. This is also one of the reasons why I wanted to do this and have my own Nepali brand. Thus, with the time and support of many people, Lakhey Nepal happened after 8 months of planning and officially started in September 2018.
2. Why the name Lakhey Nepal?
All of the fabric making, pattern making, production takes place inside Nepal. Moreover, I didn’t want to give my name to it; it would be so cliche. So, I was really looking for an authentic Nepali name. I also dreamt about being in the store during Indra Jatra. That is when it clicked me, Indra Jatra represented Nepal and the culture of our community. So, the word LAKHEY represented everything that I wanted, hence the name Lakhey Nepal.
3. You mentioned that you use Nepali fabrics. How do you do that and where do you get them?
Here at Lakhey Nepal, we source everything from production to fabrics from Nepal itself except silk and velvet fabrics; we don’t go outside Nepal looking for fabrics. The fabrics in Nepal are mostly made from organic and normal cotton, hem, bamboo and banana and all these are made by trained Nepali women from different places. So all the clothiers here at my store are made using those fabrics which are itself produced in Nepal and my goal is not just to establish a Nepali brand but to promote Nepali fabrics as well as Nepali craftsmen.
We get fabrics from different places like Dhaka, Palpa and so on. Moreover, there is this UN company that trains women, especially those in rural areas in making fabrics and yarn and they sell it to us as per our order. So, when we buy fabrics from them, we are not just buying the raw materials for our production but at the same time, we are changing the lives of hundreds of women.
4. Is the production inhouse?
We outsource everything. We give our production orders to companies who are working in the area of women empowerment. I make my designs, then we go for pattern making and one of the tailors makes a sample. When I pass the sample, the production starts.
5. You mentioned a number of fabrics. Can you tell us more about bamboo fabrics?
Bamboo fabric feels and looks like cotton but its specialty is that it keeps you cool during the summer and warm during the winter. In addition to this, the fabric also feels good, it is very soft.
6. What stage is Lakhey Nepal in as of now?
It has been almost a year since we started and there is a lot going on. So, I would say we are growing.
7. What challenges did you face in this journey?
The first challenge was my age. When I started this I was just 23 years old, so when visiting these fabric making industries, people used to say “You are just 23 and a girl, should we take you seriously?” So, it was difficult building trust and confidence but now after having an outlet, it has gotten easier. Apart from this, it was challenging to decide the number of products to produce.
8. Who are your target markets?
My major target market is working women. All my designs are formals, smart casuals, and streetwear. When we are working we are in an outfit for around 8 to 9 hours, so comfort is a must and I design and make products keeping this in mind. So, yes Lakhey Nepal is mostly for working women.
9. How do you decide on your designs? Where do you get the inspiration for your designs from?
All the clothes you find at Lakhey Nepal are my style.I think as a designer it is very important to design clothes that are wearable and I can see myself wearing all these items.
In addition to this,I always twist my designs. For instance, we all know how a formal pant looks, now I add a twist to these pants by adding an invisible zipper at the bottom; so when unzipped, the same casual pants become more fashionable than before and now you can wear it casually or at parties. So, what I want to wear I design it.
10. What is your say in the ever-increasing competition in this industry and how do you handle it?
There is no doubt that prices and designs today have become very competitive. But along with this, the customers have also become very smart; they not only look for clothes that are fashionable but they want to promote Made in Nepal clothiers. The reasons for this could be increasing pop-up shops, social media, and increasing social entrepreneurs. So, this has surely helped in creating a market for our and many other Made in Nepal Clothing lines.
Moreover, the clothes that are imported are very much similar in all shops. We can see the same dress in every shop. But Made in Nepal clothes are very different, my specialty is that I use yarns, fabrics that are made here in Nepal and other companies like Bora Studio use eco-friendly dyes in making their products, so they have their own specialty and these cannot be found in clothes that are imported. Also, I don’t emphasize much on import, I focus more on awareness, customer trust and loyalty which is helping in keeping up with the competitive market.
11. How do you connect with your customers or the target market? Any marketing schemes that you follow?
Pop-ups would be one. We go to different places, put up a stall and from these people have known a lot about Lakhey Nepal. The others would be photoshoots and Instagram promotions. It is difficult to pinpoint one particular marketing scheme, but I would say word of mouth and pop-ups.
12. What makes your products unique?
My designs are simple, minimalistic and detail-oriented. We have a shirt which has buttons that are designed as rhododendron. Along with this my products are made of Nepali fabrics and I don’t think there are any companies using all Nepal fabrics as their raw material like making pants from Dhaka, using Nepali fabrics to make long coats and so on. So, my specialty is my fabrics which make my products unique.
13. What is your current staff strength?
As of now, there are only two people working here. I look after the production and my colleague handles all the financial aspects.
14. How many customers do you have on a monthly basis?
We have an average of 10 customers in a month. We also have a bunch of loyal customers who after their first purchase, always buy from us. With time I am gaining a lot of customers; initially, people are skeptical regarding the fabrics but after their first purchase they are always coming back.
15. What are your future plans for Lakhey Nepal?
I am thinking of starting a men’s collection-Lakhey men, which I have started but it is just customized designs as of now. Likewise, Lakhey Nepal is just winter brand; so we are planning on having a summer collection too.
16. Any unique customer experience you would like to share?
Every customer is a new experience for me. But I would like to share something; I designed some clothiers for my guy friend for his Turkey vacation and at that time I wasn’t even considering having men’s collection. So, I simply customized it for my friend and the people at Turkey really liked my design and found it to be unique.
17. What are your thoughts on exporting the products of Lakhey Nepal?
I surely want to export my products in the international market but maybe after 5 to 10 years because my first and foremost motive is to make it known in Nepal.
18. How has your entrepreneurial journey been so far?
It has been great. People are so helpful and that is one of the best qualities we Nepalese have, you just have to be nice and ask for help. Also, yes the journey hasn’t been easy but as I got to know people and with time all is going well.
19. How do you want people to perceive Lakhey as a brand?
Comfortable, minimalist and affordable.
20. Anything you would like to share with us?
Don’t hesitate to ask for help and you have to speak up, get your unique ideas out there to make people believe in you and your dreams. Also, the way you express yourself matters a lot. Adding on to this, if you are really passionate about something just start, don’t wait for the right time.
Interviewed and Article by Trishna Shakya