Lockdown Economy Nepal in a Clothing Brand with Erina Shrestha

The interview was transcribed and adapted into an article by Deepti Sharma

Lockdown Economy: Interviews by think tank AlterContacts.org with real entrepreneurs sharing insights, challenges and successes during the COVID19 global pandemic to inspire, motivate and encourage other entrepreneurs around the world.

In this interview, we meet Erina Shrestha, the Founder of Lakhey Nepal, which is a clothing brand in Nepal. They work with customized fabric for quality control. Their major clientele is working women. They have recently branched out to babywear and men’s clothing as well. We talked about how the lockdown impacted Lakhey Nepal. They had no sales for three to four months. They were operating both online and through a store. The logistics became an issue due to the restrictions of the lockdown. However, Erina wanted to focus on the positives. Lakhey Nepal tried a new Mithila Art collection during the lockdown. Although they could only release a single design, it performed very well. They also collaborated with an accessories brand for the collection which is made in Nepal. It sold out in less than 48 hours. Currently, they are working on their new collection for March. They are optimistic that they can grow their client base in the coming future. She would like some help with Public relations to handle her social media and figuring out what her clients want.

Watch the video version of the interview.

Please introduce us to your organisation-Lakhey Nepal.

Erina: Lakhey Nepal is a made in Nepal clothing brand. We’re based in Nepal and from the designs to the production, everything is done here only. What makes us stand out as a made in Nepal brand in comparison to the other similar ones is that from the start of the manufacturing i.e., making of fabric to the end product which is the garment we do it all here.

We source fabric from different parts of Kathmandu, Bhaktapur and Lalitpur. We use Nepali fabrics in our designs. So, that’s how we are different from the others.

We’ve been operating since 2018 so we’re fairly new in the industry.

How did you come about the name for your business?

Erina: I have always been asked this question. The reason why I chose “Lakhey” as the name for my brand is that I wanted it to represent not just me but also the community where I have come from. It’d be quite ordinary if I had given it my name or called it “ Erina’s creation” or “Erina’s this and that”. That would be just my designs representing me, I’d rather want my designs, lines or collections to represent the whole community. Lakhey has an authentic name to it, it’s about Nepalese culture, tradition and festivals. We all can relate to the name, we all have our own stories associated with this name. That’s how I wanted people to relate to my designs as well. So, the name is also made in Nepal. It fits perfectly and that’s why I chose the name.

How big is your team right now?

Erina: We’re quite small. I do most of the external managerial work and I have Shrijana Didi who looks after my finances. So, both of us are the permanent staff in our company. I look after the external stuff like production, fabric sourcing, designing and design development- it’s a whole thing that I do with my team. Shrijana Didi looks after finances. Sometimes when we’re doing campaigns, we obviously need more staff, that’s when we hire PR for a monthly or two weeks contract. So, that’s how we’re operating right now. As we are slowly growing, we were thinking of hiring more people. We’re really small right now.

Who is your major clientele?

Erina: When we launched Lakhey, we were more focused on women wear, precisely smart wears and casual wears. But now we’re slowly growing, we recently launched our sub-brands: Lakhey baby and Lakhey men. So, we are going there and trying to increase our client base or our market. We’re trying to reach the mass.

Talking about the Lockdown, Nepal went into the lockdown in mid-march and we had two lockdowns. It was a very passive time, a very strict lockdown. What kind did it bring in your organisation?

Erina: Obviously Lakhey Nepal suffered as much as other brands did. There were times when we had zero sales over 3 to 4 months. Being an online and store-based company, we were highly dependent on logistics. That was just not for us, but I’d rather focus on the positive side. Like I told you earlier, before lockdown we were working on our spring-summer 2020 wear. I had this whole idea of doing a Madhubani collection. Madhubani is also known as Mithila art. I wanted Mithila art hand-painted in my designs.

That’s what we were working on, but we only could finish just one item from the whole collection which was a semi-formal shirt. It’s there on our Instagram and Facebook page. We had quite an amount of stock of that design. I had nil idea what to do with it because it couldn’t have possibly blended in with my next collection. I just impromptu called up a few people and did my first collaboration with Tisha using that design. Tisha is a made in Nepal accessories brand as well. They were very happy to help me out with the styling and all that stuff. It was very fast- one day I talked to them, the next day I had got the stuff, the day after we did the photoshoot and launched the whole collection.

We launched the shirt and luckily within 48 hours we got sold out literally less than 48 hours. So, that was quite a surprise for us, also because of the shirt, we crossed the 1000 followers mark on our Instagram. That’s what I want to focus on, it was the highlight for Lakhey Nepal in the whole lockdown. We weren’t even sure we could sell even one shirt in the design. I’d like to focus on the positive side of the lockdown.

It’s so wonderful to see businesses innovate during the lockdown period; take a step back to evaluate the business; add more services and see what the market is like at the moment. I’m happy that you were able to come up with something very creative during the lockdown that worked really well. What other strategies did you try during the lockdown?

Erina: We were very busy with the whole Madhubani shirt collection. Like I said we got sold out within 2 days. Then we had to take orders, we took about 11–12 orders for the shirts. That was the extra work and our whole production was rotating over the Madhubani shirt collection. We didn’t want to take risks as well. We were a new company. It wouldn’t make sense for us to create more designs and keep stocking them. We’re just figuring out things eventually just as everyone is.

Earlier you have given some insight on how you promote your products throughout the year and because of the lockdown you had to skip some of that. So, when Nepal went into lockdown you also had to close some of your business. What was the interaction with your clients like, who are familiar with your brand?

Erina: We were active online- on our Instagram and Facebook pages. For our clients, we did lots of sales and flash sales. We even came out with festive wear for men during the lockdown. That’s how we were interacting with them. Before lockdown people would contact us and ask for prices. Some found the prices pretty expensive, so we sold those things in flash sales. It’s beneficial for us and them as well. That’s how we helped our clients I’d say.

Speaking of competitors, what kind of strategy did they take to during the lockdown?

Erina: Well my competitors are my friends from the fellow local Nepalese brands. I think they are very supportive. I don’t know if you noticed, but there was this cycle of tagging each other in our public accounts and exchanging our audiences. They were very supportive and I think everybody would agree with this. We were exchanging audiences and making other brands visible for our audiences as well. That’s how we were working. I’m very grateful because Lakhey had been tagged by a lot of brands and I was very happy. That’s how we even formed a personal relationship in terms of business.

I think that’s one of the positive things about doing these interviews as well because every time we have a guest on they talk about collaboration instead of competition. It’s truly a time for businesses to support each other as well as for people to support local businesses. Moving on to the post-lockdown segment, how’s your organisation performing at this time?

Erina: Right now we’re highly focused on coming up with our spring-summer 2021 campaign. In Lakhey what we do is we divide a year into two parts- One being Spring-Summer and other is October-Winter. We do campaigns twice a year. So, right now we’ve just started with our design development work for our next collection which will probably be launched around March. Yeah, so we’re in the design development process currently. We really hope to come up with great designs and not just one or two pieces but a whole collection. Looking forward to that.

Where do you see Lakhey Nepal at the end of the first quarter of 2021?

Erina: I want to see Lakhey Nepal with a bigger client base and more followers on Instagram. Well, I wouldn’t give it a short term lookout. I want to see Lakhey Nepal come up with great designs and each season should be better than the last one. We’re just figuring all the things, so just six months from now I hope we’re doing better and we can give what our customers are asking for. I hope we can follow the fashion trends that we were trying to do; that we get better sales and mass client base.

What are the three things in your business that you need help with?

Erina: I think I need help in terms of public relation for sure as in handling our social media; talking to our clients and knowing what they want. I think I need help with all that stuff along with finding out the client psychology. I can’t really pick just three things I need help with. There are a lot of things that we gradually come across and know that we have to work on.

Any parting words you’d like to share with our viewers.

Erina: Lakhey Nepal is a new brand. Please check us out and do support us not just us but all the Nepal made brands. When you’re supporting small business, you’re supporting someone’s dream. Rather than shopping internationally, you should try Nepalese products as well for their quality and designs. These are also high-end products so give them a try. Try using made in Nepal products and support us.

About the Guest

Lakhey Nepal is a clothing brand made in Nepal. They are currently in the second year of operation. They make customized fabrics for production to ensure quality control. They have recently launched their sub-brands Lakhey baby for babywear and Lakhey Men.

Erina Shrestha is a Fashion designer and the Founder of Lakhey Nepal. She started the brand at the age of 23. Erina studied fashion designing from IEC college of art and design. She previously worked with Folk Nepal and The Packing Man (based in Italy).

Facebook: @lakheynp

Instagram: @lakhey_nepal

The UN-registered nonprofit social initiative that helps small businesses and self-employed professionals to overcome the challenges of the pandemic.