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Thursday, May 13, 2021

Fashioning a dream

Sophomore Namgyal Nepali shows off his latest works at the Make.Shift Block Party, Saturday, Sept. 24. // Photo by Harrison Amelang.
Sophomore Namgyal Nepali shows off his latest works at the Make.Shift Block Party, Saturday, Sept. 24. // Photo by Harrison Amelang.

On Tuesday, Sept 20, sophomore and clothing entrepreneur Namgyal Nepali woke up with a great idea. Gathering up clothing from his line, a clothing rack and stickers with his line’s logo, Nepali decided to set up shop in Red Square during the Info Fair. Things were going successfully until he got kicked out and moved over to Old Main. He was able to sell $130 worth of product in three hours.

Nepali, who moved to Bellingham from Vancouver, Washington, started State of Bliss with his friend Christian Mallers during Nepali’s junior year of high school.

“I contacted him, and I was like, ‘Let’s do this, let’s start a clothing brand,’” Nepali said.

Before starting his own company, Nepali worked with a group of guys at his high school taking pictures for their brand, Swab.

“I was working with them for three weeks, and I realized that I could be doing this myself,” Nepali said. “I was putting in a lot of my time toward something I didn’t really appreciate.”

Nepali said he wanted to steer the brand toward something positive, which is why he landed on the name Bliss. The image for the company, Nepali said, is about combining the street with the outdoors.

“Back home I would always be hiking, and I also love the city. I like Portland,” Nepali said.

Sophomore Cameron Wallace, a computer science major and Nepali’s roommate, met Nepali their freshman year on the fifth floor of Mathes Hall.

“The brands who have creators who actually care about what they’re making and what they’re putting out, those do the best, and that’s what I see with Nepali,” Wallace said. “He really cares. It’s his little baby. He does so much for it.”

Nepali said some of his business drive comes from his grandparents. Originally from Tibet, the couple were forced to flee to Nepal after the Chinese invaded Tibet. Making the best of a bad situation, Nepali’s grandmother started a rug business the family was able to expand over the years, even establishing their own factory.

“I contacted him, and I was like, ‘Let’s do this, let’s start a clothing brand.’” 

Namgyal Nepali

The family sold the factory when they followed Nepali’s father to America in 2001, settling in Vancouver, Washington.

Nepali said that his grandparents support his passion, but they worry about his interest in designing clothes, having lived through a similar profession.

The biggest challenge for getting the business off the ground is money, Nepali said. Despite his misgivings, the company got its start on a $500 donation from Nepali’s grandfather. Mallers also pitched in a $100 contribution.

From that, the duo produced 50 shirts with a production cost of about $9 a shirt. They then sold the shirts for $15, making a small profit.

“I had to bus tables every day just to have enough money to make the hats and shirts,” Nepali said. “I wanted to keep everything affordable and deliver a quality piece.”

Nepali’s other passion is street photography. When he’s not working on State of Bliss, he can often be found downtown taking photos of the city’s landscapes. In addition to being the co-owner, Nepali takes all of the promotional photos for State of Bliss. Nepali said photography is an integral part of the brand.

Nepali often outsources designing duties.

“I do a little bit of designing, but I’m not the best,”  Nepali said. “I’ll come up with the ideas and the theme of the design, and I’ll have a friend that’s well polished in Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop [do it].”

In one instance, Nepali stumbled across designer Kevin Wong’s Instagram page and liked what he saw. Wong was designing for eTc Tacoma, a retail clothing boutique not too far from Bellingham. Nepali noticed he was accepting clients and emailed him about designing for State of Bliss.

Wong agreed and designed two seasons worth of clothes for the company.

“He really helped establish our brand, design wise,” Nepali said. “He really put a good character and image to the brand.”

Nepali also handles the marketing and networking for the company. He contacts local boutiques and tries to sell his line to their stores.

Continuously going into stores, saying hello and establishing relationships with the staff at boutiques helps Nepali sell the brand.

“I had to bus tables every day just to have enough money to make the hats and shirts. I wanted to keep everything affordable and deliver a quality piece.”

Namgyal Nepali

Recently, Nepali got two State of Bliss hats into Standard Goods, a clothing store on Capitol Hill. Nepali also got State of Bliss into Compound Gallery, a store in Portland, Oregon.

“That’s the store that really got me into streetwear when I was in high school,” he said. “Now, to have my stuff in there is a blessing.”

Nepali said he is influenced by the types of clothes the people around him are wearing and browses online fashion forums like Hypebeast.com.

“Mainly, I’ll look through these because bigger brands that I look up to like Classic and The Hundreds will post their lookbooks on there,” he said.

The business strives to remain unique and avoid overcommitting to passing trends.

Sophomore Namgyal Nepali shows off his Seattle Sonics spin off logo at the Make.Shift Block Party, Saturday, Sept. 24. He also has a similar design for the Portland Trailblazers. // Photo by Harrison Amelang.
Sophomore Namgyal Nepali shows off his Seattle Sonics spin off logo at the Make.Shift Block Party, Saturday, Sept. 24. He also has a similar design for the Portland Trailblazers. // Photo by Harrison Amelang.

“I’ll see a lot of people flipping designs, and either just copying or sticking with trends like really long tee shirts or dad caps,” he said. “Dad caps really blew up, you know—everyone was making them because it was something that everybody could do.”

Wallace described State of Bliss as blending classic streetwear pieces like hoodies, hats and shirts, with peaceful and natural elements.

“Nepali’s taken that urban aesthetic and pushed it into nature, with all of his imagery and even the name,” Wallace said.

Going forward, Wallace said one of the most important things the brand can do is take a risk and do something different, but that requires large financial support.

“As it is now, we’re in college, and we don’t have a lot of pocket change,” Wallace said.

The end goal for State of Bliss would be to have a flagship store, carrying other emerging brands and giving workshops, Nepali said.

“I love the city, and I love the outdoors. I’m trying to bring those worlds together,” Nepali said.

Nepali said if the brand were to become successful, he wants to give back to the world. His grandparents connection to Nepal has given the country a special place in his heart, and he said he would like to help out any way he can when he is able.

“It gives me motivation to use something I’ve been building with State of Bliss and have that be an outlet to help out and lend a hand,” Nepali said. “Nepal lended a hand to a couple thousand Tibetans in their time of need. That’s one reason they are on the top of my list.”

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