Business and Industries QUT Faculty Projects Women

Fashion Business in the Time of COVID

By Chandrika, Bhutan

The “Business Acceleration for Entrepreneurs” course I attended at QUT, funded by the Australian Government, enriched my knowledge about strategic entrepreneurship. It made me think carefully about my business model. The business examples we saw in different parts of Australia (Queensland and South Australia) opened my eyes to very creative strategies on how to grow as a business.

My Australia Awards training has equipped me to be an  ethical, inclusive and sustainable business.

The threat of COVID-19 on the health, well-being and livelihood of our small community is still looking larger than ever before. The economic situation is also looking increasingly grim. Therefore, the need to build greater resilience and shore up the confidence of our people has become paramount.

We have also experienced dramatic fall in our sale record without any people traveling and going. We then stopped 60% of our daily weaving and focused on the local market instantly. We studied the void of national dress (top/tego) and specialized in making new designs for the market. We then continued only with weavers who were single mothers initially, and designed a one-of-a-kind product in our local market. It has become a trend, and helped compete against the import of harmful foreign fiber fabrics, which has been contributing to the loss of the culture of weaving.

While CDK was enjoying commercial success, it has also had its share of challenges, especially in terms of infringement of its original designs. Many people started selling and weaving the same tego in the market and when questioned, one of them said, “I have no job now  so started to make the same tego since it was going to be good in the market”.

IP is new to the business community in Bhutan, and there are many cases of IP infringement in the textile sector. Now we can see copies of it everywhere. It is really disheartening but makes us more strong to come up with new ideas. It is also expensive to register IP rights for each product when we are a small and new firm.

Now we have created our own motifs to register and will be specializing in tego and home collection nationally and internationally and increase our production without harming the earth, whilst promoting the culture of weaving.

Today, we employ just seven permanent staff and 18 home-based weavers, who are all single mothers. Before the COVID crisis happened, we had 12 permanent staff and over 40 home-based weavers. We are also planning to employ people with disability soon and teach them hand-stitching. We have plans to adopt how to design for circularity in fashion.

CDK is gaining increasing popularity in Bhutan, thanks to the hard work and determination of our team. The company’s innovative design concepts, forward-thinking IP strategy and holistic approach are what make it one of Bhutan’s most exciting upcoming SMEs.

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