What started as a makeup project in 2020 turned into a clothing line shown at Denver Fashion Week (DFW) Spring 2022. For designer and makeup creator Saylesa Nepal, taking her brand to the next level was only possible with the help of TikTok. She took to the social media platform to showcase her editorial makeup looks and then decided to start creating hydra liners and lipglosses herself.
This idea was inspired by Nepal’s struggle to find the right lip color – she wanted to create the perfect brown. From there, she watched a plethora of Youtube and TikTok videos, ordered the right materials and began creating. With a degree in biology and a minor in chemistry, Nepal said her background helped her to further understand what was being put into her products.
It wasn’t until 2021, that Nepali transitioned into fashion — her biggest passion.
Her brand name “Kanchiko” was inspired by her Nepali heritage. “Kanchi” is a Nepali word for the youngest girl in a household, so being the youngest of three, “Kanchi” was Nepal’s nickname. “Ko” is more of a pronoun or syntax joiner meaning hers, their, his, etc. and when put together Kanchiko Wear translates to “the youngest’s wear.”
The first designs released under the Kanchiko brand were hoodies and shorts which sold out rapidly due to TikTok.
“When I do collections, the inspiration behind them is always an experience for me. I’ll get inspired by something that I did, a trip I went on or a saying,” Nepali said.
One of her collections was inspired by a solo trip she took to New York City where she met a group of friends. There, someone kept repeating, “stay connected,” which resonated with Nepali so much that she made it the theme of her collection.
“It really spoke to people because at the time, of course, there was COVID and everything like that and you couldn’t see one other,” Nepal said. “The whole inspiration and meaning behind it was the idea of staying connected to yourself, to your friends and your family.”
Nepal emphasized that she always wants to create a collection that has meaning to her but also speaks to others. Her most recent collection was shown at DFW and was inspired by the idea of Nepal not being satisfied with her birthday outfit and wishing she designed her own — so she turned it into a collection focused on nightwear and going out.
“DFW was such a great experience, I got so much exposure and gained a lot of memories,” Nepal said. “It was definitely difficult because I had to come up with a whole collection within a month but when the day came and my collection was on the runway, it was surreal and I’m so grateful for it.”
Nepal’s DFW collection was also connected to her Nepali culture, something that she is passionate about emulating in her designs. Born in New Zealand with a Nepali heritage, Nepal hopes that translating her two identities and culture into her designs makes others feel more connected to her brand. She said that embracing a cultural and western side are common concepts that many first-generation immigrants face and understand.
“I want my pieces to be more authentic and I really want to think about them more before I release them to my followers and people who are wanting to buy,” Nepal said.
In addition to integrating her heritage into her designs, Nepal also works with SHE Nepal, a nonprofit based in Nepal to educate young women in lower socio-economic areas about menstrual health and provide them with reusable sanitary pads. Menstrual hygiene is something that isn’t considered widely in Nepal, so coming from a strong science background, she feels connected to the organization even more. Through every Kanchiko sale, a percentage is donated to SHE Nepal.
“I definitely wanted to make donating and educating a priority even when I started and was barely making any profit,” Nepal said.
Currently, Nepal is working on rebranding Kanchiko Wear. She wants her pieces to be better quality, minimalistic and made out of recycled materials. Nepal hopes to create a lifetime wear out of her clothes.
“I personally feel like the fashion industry is so saturated that sometimes I feel like this Earth doesn’t need another brand,” Nepal said. “My mindset is trying to turn into an eco-friendly brand that contributes to making this Earth better and not thinking about what the next trend is or what is going to look great.”