Dorsu is founded on the idea that we could one day see a world where clothing isn’t seen as disposable and where ethical production isn’t seen as charity.
It’s high-quality, affordable and timeless. So as I said in the full deep dive here, if you’ve been on the hunt for some quality basics that don’t cost the earth, people’s humanity or your back pocket and provide a level of transparency that is often unseen in the fashion industry, then Dorsu may just be it.
As with all Beyond the Brand interviews, the aim is to further deep dive on every great company I feature and be able to bridge the gap between the founder’s goals, and the brand itself that we all know and love. Today, I was lucky enough to have Hanna, the co-founder of Dorsu, sit down and answer some of the questions I have in order to know more about not only Dorsu itself and the journey that has been on, but also on a more personal level. I hope you enjoy this interview as much as I did.
WHAT MADE YOU START DORSU?
My business partner and co-founder, Kunthear, and I started Dorsu as a small fundraising business for a local community school (Chumkriel Language School). We sold one-off dresses and t-shirts mostly to tourists here in Kampot and grew the business slowly and organically.
Three years ago, we decided to expand. We had built a strong team and saw the growing demand for more transparency and quality in the fashion industry, not only here in Cambodia, but overseas as well. We completely restructured our business model and focused on building an approachable and progressive company. Now, we’re striving to be a voice that’s changing the fashion industry.
WHAT IS SOMETHING OTHERS WOULDN’T KNOW ABOUT CREATING AN ETHICAL FASHION BUSINESS THAT YOU THINK THEY SHOULD?
Supply chains are incredibly complex. There’s a lot happening behind the scenes to ensure our customers receive their clothing, seamlessly. There is a difficult disconnect between the theoretical sustainable operation of supply chains and actually making that happen.
WHAT HAS BEEN THE MOST CHALLENGING THING YOU HAVE UNCOVERED SINCE BEGINNING?
Exposure to the true issues of mass-manufacturing industries and garment production in Cambodia is very confronting. It has challenged me personally, particularly my ideas of right and wrong and inherent privilege of even having the capacity to be confronted by the greater system. It sometimes fires me up and sometimes leaves me feeling defeated, it’s just so multifaceted and complex.
WITHIN THE ETHICAL FASHION COMMUNITY, THERE’S A BIG QUESTION WE ASK WHICH IS ‘WHO MADE MY CLOTHES?’. IN THE SCOPE OF DORSU, WHO MADE YOUR CLOTHES?
A diverse team of skilled individuals lead by passionate and determined founders. The majority of our team are Cambodian and local to Kampot, varying in age and experience in the garment industry. We then have team members hailing from Australia, The USA, England and The Philippines. We all work together to create an experience for our customers, allowing them to know who made their clothes and how they were made.
BEST PIECE OF ADVICE YOU HAVE EVER RECEIVED?
Rest. You can’t do everything yourself. Look at the level at which you are working and if it would be much more effective if you rested.
I’m bringing this up for this feature intentionally. I think it’s really important in the social business, sustainable fashion, entrepreneurial space to look at the way in which we work when our work is so important to us. We all often start with such little resources that we do everything and I’ve done a pretty terrible job of looking after myself. It’s a lesson I’ve learned very late and will be acting on for 2018, hopefully someone reading this can think about it earlier than I did.
ONE TIP YOU’D GIVE TO OTHERS WHO ARE WANTING TO START THEIR OWN BUSINESS?
Try to find a balance between a well-researched plan and being adaptable. Some of our greatest successes have happened because we responded to an opportunity that we hadn’t necessarily seen coming, however, we’ve also ended up in a few messes through not thinking things through clearly in the beginning and following a strategy.
Oh – and record your finances from the beginning, no matter how small they are, it’s much harder to set those processes up retroactively.
WHERE DO YOU ENVISION DORSU IN THE FUTURE?
So many places! We’re charging forward with our in-house label and also producing customised swag for some insanely awesome companies across the world. Our focus this year is to strengthen our industry voice and create a greater impact through working with clients and partners passionate about investing in sustainable supply chains. We’re very excited about the development of sustainable fabrics and I hope that you will see some very interesting product development in Dorsu’s near future. So many things on the list!
WHAT OR WHO INSPIRES YOU TO DO WHAT YOU DO ON A DAILY BASIS?
My business partner Kunthear’s bravery and tenacity is inspiring, I love working with her, she keeps me going.
Our partners and customers also constantly impress me. Their passion, drive and follow through is energising – we are just so lucky, I am constantly pinching myself regarding the businesses that we’re working with and what we achieve together.
DO YOU HAVE A MORNING ROUTINE? IF SO WHAT IS IT YOU DO TO SET YOURSELF UP FOR THE DAY AHEAD?
My best days are those that I can start slowly in my home with exercise, breakfast, coffee, looking over the day and getting ahead on my work. In all honesty though most days it’s a win just getting my bag packed and out the door to our office. I really like working nights as it’s quiet and cool here in tropical Cambodia so some mornings I’m..drowsy.
ONE BOOK EVERYONE SHOULD READ? WHY?
Let My People Go Surfing by Yvon Chouinard is one I always return to. I greatly admire Chouinard’s determination in pioneering ethics and sustainability in his products and his company operations. I relate greatly to his admittance of being a reluctant businessman and find the book very inspiring and a confirmation to go one’s own way.
ARE THERE ANY OTHER MOVERS & SHAKERS OUT THERE IN YOUR WORLD THAT YOU THINK PEOPLE SHOULD KNOW ABOUT?
The Social Outfit in Sydney are stellar. Their products are gorgeous and I love their business model. I am so often saddened by the state of Australian politics and the government’s commentary on and approach to a humanitarian crisis- The Social Outfit smash that message- fighting for independence, equality and creativity.
I’ve seen you have already featured them so your readers may already be aware, but, everyone should follow Walk Sew Good. Megan and Gab took a fresh approach to commenting on the industry and are very in touch with what is happening across this region of Asia – and they’re funny.
& there you have it Changemakers, another Beyond the Brand interview done and dusted. These interviews have become something I really look forward to when it comes to learning more about such incredible mindful brands doing great things. I hope you are enjoying them too!