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[EXCLUSIVE] Dahlia Nadirah Of Solek Cosmetics On How Heritage Shaped Her Brand

Dahlia Nadirah of SO.LEK Cosmetics tells us how she balances heritage and innovation for her game-changing cosmetics line.

“I think it is important to know where you come from and be proud of it. My maternal grandfather was third-generation Chinese and a known Keris-maker. Things like this make me who I am today; someone who is very proud of her roots, heritage and tradition.

To me, it is a way of life. This is my identity. I don’t just love the idea that Malaysia has so many races, religions, cultures and traditions. I love learning about everything relating to Malaysia. It’s like learning about yourself as a whole.

When I met my husband, Khairil Ridzwan (or LoQue), we clicked right away, because we liked the same things and we’re very passionate. People think we are pro-Malay — we are actually pro-Malaysian. We are proud of who we are, we love other races’ cultures and traditions.

When I started SO.LEK, it was a no-brainer that the branding would relate to Malaysian heritage. At the time, there weren’t any beauty brands with the same branding as ours. I remember telling my mother about it and she asked, “What is the name of the brand?” I straight away said “SO.LEK!” I wanted something Malaysian, easy to remember and say. When my brother came on board, I said to him, “Wow, the name even represents us, we always say ‘SO? Lek aaaa’”.

Many people were sceptical of our branding. They said that we are not urban enough, that we are too ‘kampung’. But look at us today. We’re so different to all the beauty brands out there. In fact, there are now so many local brands ‘going back’ to the roots. I love how we have created that awareness.

Currently, our products are available in North America and the UK. When the distributors approached us, I asked myself if I should change the name of the products, since these people around the world wouldn’t know the meaning behind them. But then I thought of products from Europe, where they maintained their names and didn’t ‘internationalise’ them. None of them change their names.

People now message us saying that they don’t only love the product, they love the history and stories behind them. 

“…Be true to yourself, and be proud of yourself and where you come from.”
— Dahlia nadhirah

I have three daughters and I expose them to our cultures. We tell them it is important to know these things and be proud of them because this is your identity that makes you different from the rest of the world. My daughters speak Bahasa and English, eat kuih talam and macarons, love traditional dance like Joget Pahang and love Jojo Siwa’s stuff too. Our message to them is that it is okay to love the Western world, but don’t abandon what is truly yours. It’s worrying seeing parents now focus on educating their children on Western culture and forgetting their own history. There is this mentality where if you speak Bahasa Malaysia or you like Malaysian stuff, you’re ‘kampung’.

This is what I am passionate about, to change that mentality and create awareness. We should always choose to be true to yourself, and be proud of yourself and where you come from.”

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