Ropuma Manandhar’s professional studio is located in the garage at her home. This is where she sits and sketches her masterpieces and brings them to life with the help of three other staffs. This is the birthplace of Chuplag Studio that many Instagram fanatics are surely following by now. A physical store of Chuplag Studio is at Dallu Awas in Siddhartha Chowk, Kathmandu.
Chuplag Studio was initiated two years ago after Manandhar returned to Nepal post her graduation. As a fashion enthusiast, establishing her own brand had always been one of her dreams. She started by designing hemp shirts for men. And though the concept was appreciated by quite a few people in the beginning, she had to later give it up as hemp was an expensive material for the market she was catering to.
“Hemp is a little pricey for everyday clothes for many,” says Manandhar adding that she quickly learnt that while people wanted to look fashionable and good, they didn’t want to spend all that much on clothes. “I thought I should take that into consideration and switched to something that is more affordable,” she adds.
Today, Chuplag Studio has jute dresses, embroidered outfits, fur jackets and clothing items that have sequins too. Size and age aren’t important factors to don a Chuplag Studio creation. You can also sit down with Manandhar and have a customized outfit designed for yourself as the studio offers a 10-day long workshop for those wanting to dabble in fashion designing.
Manandhar mentions that the syllabus for the workshop has everything from cutting, pattern making, drafting to drip manipulation and many more. “Fashion is a tricky subject. It is not just about sketching a picture on a piece of paper. You need to know terms like 18 different types of sleeves or more than 27 different types of fabric patterns. So, for those who are very new to fashion, I help them build the real concept and teach them not just random content from books but also all about what it takes to initiate a brand,” she says.
Chuplag Studio can be the perfect place to head to if you want a trendy yet unique outfit or if you want to learn more about fashion. They can also help you accessorize your outfit. You can pick up a pair of earrings or a choker to complement the dress you buy at Chuplag Studio. These jewelry items too have been designed exclusively by Manandhar during her internship period at a Thai accessories company.
This is a section where one can customize their favorite pieces of clothes which can go together as a whole set of a single suit. The different options offered are palazzo pants, shorts, skirts or tapered for the bottom with a blazer or cape coat for the top. These sets are available in various colors and can be customized in any size. No matter which set you pick, the price of the dress will be Rs 5500. The fabrics used to make them are organically dyed American crepe.
The dresses from this section are made using a convertible sparkling sequins fabric. This means one can change the color of the dress just by rubbing the sequins with their hands. Currently, the dresses are available in white which you can change into silver or pink that can be reversed to gold. The dress is priced at Rs 4500.
Manandhar was inspired by the story of the old ugly duckling where he later turns into the beautiful swan. This particular collection contains six different sets of dresses, each a perfect blend of a swan’s regal look and modern style. They are all white and each of them has a thin net cloth attached to it to give the feel of water. It also contains extra elements like feathers and chokers. Manandhar mentions that this collection is very precious to her and is priceless. She does not want to sell them, but one can rent it out for a few days for special events, photo shoots, and other such occasions.
The fur collection
This collection includes faux fur jackets in different colors as black, beige, charcoal grey and many more. These jackets were also made at her studio. She shares that her fur collection was such a hit this past winter that it became one of the best selling items from her entire collection. Each of these jacket costs Rs 3900.
A conversation with the designer
Why did you choose to name your brand Chuplag?
I took inspiration from Lord Bhairav, God of dread and terror. Apparently, all the other gods shut up when Lord Bhairav starts speaking. And, not just that, the phrase ‘chup lag’ is something that is commonly used across all generations. I wanted a name that was simple but it had to be something that would stand out. And I didn’t think there could be a better name than this. It’s unique and it immediately catches people’s attention.
How did Chuplag Studio take off?
When I had just started out, I got a call to design dresses for the Face of Nepal contestants. I believe that’s how more people came to know about my brand. But it’s amazing how star power can really propel a brand. When models and celebrities started wearing my creations at different events, Chuplag Studio’s popularity soared. More people started following my account on Instagram and my customer base also grew.
What is your strategy for maintaining a good online presence?
I don’t update products that are out of stock. That’s my most basic rule. You might have seen many clothing brands posting pictures of dresses and then simply saying they are out of stock when someone orders it. I don’t understand why they don’t delete the photo when they can’t deliver it anymore. I make sure I can make any of my featured products at any time if someone places an order. I think this dependability is what keeps my customers loyal to my brand.
What do you think about the fashion industry in Nepal?
The fashion industry has grown so much in other countries but in Nepal it’s still in its nascent stage. There are only a handful of good designers and, even then, there’s a long way to go before we can reach international standards. Also, since the market is not that huge, it’s not that hard to create a unique piece. At times, even playing with multiple of fabrics seems to work really well in bringing out a good designer item.
And what do you think of Nepalis’ fashion sense?
The main problem here is that people are afraid of trying anything new. They want to look different but don’t experiment with their looks. There is that fear of not being trendy by doing something different too. And for those who want to create new trends, it’s kind of difficult to put together the perfect ensemble. Also since most clothes that you find here are imported from China, it’s more often than not quite difficult to find one in a size that flatters you.
Do you have any suggestions for aspiring designers who want to create their own brand?
Crafting and creating clothes that are expensive and bear a fancy tag won’t make your brand stand out. You need to make sure that people are comfortable wearing the clothes you designed. And I’m talking about comfort in not just how the fabric or fit feels but in terms of how the designs make them feel. Also, don’t try to copy what’s already there. Make something of your own. Let people enjoy the variations of your work enough to make it change their perspective on fashion.