Behind the Seams: The Disadvantaged Women Creating Hong Kong Fashion
Friday, February 4, 2011
The founders of Dialog Worldbutik, Malaysian Dong Shing Chiu and New Generation Award winner Cassandra Postema, started their social business after the 2004 tsunami. They sold “Hope Tee” T-shirts for tsunami relief fundraising and expanded into women’s handbags and accessories using recycled materials by 2007.
“Eco-friendly and fair trade is our trademark and the stories behind our designs are important. But the design is what sets us apart,” says Postema.
Their work has not gone unnoticed. Worldbutik won the Overall Accessories Award at New York Fashion Week Accessories Magazine and was the Editors’ Choice at Fabulous magazine in the UK.
More importantly, their social enterprise business model works. The organization has injected over US$90,000 into the local communities that they work with around Asia.
Yet, co-founder Dong says that “pricing is not the most crucial aspect of our operation.” People are a priority over profit at Worldbutik, as a social enterprise should be.
Since Worldbutik depends on textiles that they salvage and recycle, they have to focus on continuously pushing the boundaries of their designs and maintaining employment of their network of communities and workgroups.
Dorcas Design is only one of several workgroups that manufactures for Dialog Worldbutik. It was founded in March 2006 with a group of skilled disabled women who overcame poverty and social stigma to establish a financially independent life for themselves.