A couple of weeks ago I was introduced to the wonderful Hanna Guy Co-Founder of one of my favourite ethical brands, Dorsu. I have followed Dorsu for some time and always been inspired by their way, the "Dorsu way", of doing things.
"The Dorsu Way is about being real. We are people making clothing for people who work hard, travel often and experience life. Imagine a world where clothing isn't seen as disposable and where ethical production isn't seen as charity"
When Hanna agreed to do a Q&A for our blog, I couldn't wait to hear more about Dorsu, their makers and the struggles of running an ethical business in a fast fashion dominated world.
Can you tell us about Dorsu and what you do?
We’re an ethical clothing company based in Cambodia. We design and produce clothing that is long-lasting and suitable for travel, work and home.We’re determined to change the conventional approach of today’s fashion industry by focusing on transparency, valuing our team and being kind to our planet. We want to slow things down and give our customers an opportunity to know how their clothes were made and where their money is going.
When and how did Dorsu start?
Dorsu started in 2008 as a small social enterprise with the intention of selling handmade clothes to raise funds for a local school here in Kampot, Cambodia. Our company and voice has since grown in a way we could never have imagined.
In 2014 we felt that we had built a team and concept with an incredible amount of potential and knew that awareness of the impact that clothing has on the planet and it’s people was growing globally. We rehashed our plans and brought Dorsu 2.0 out into the world, we kind of grew up and decided to go for it with everything we could. We haven’t looked back.
Meet the makers; can you tell us about the people who make Dorsu's clothes?
Myself along with Co-founder Kunthear Mov have built a strong and diverse team. We’re an Australian and Cambodian mix of people who work extremely hard in our respective areas of the company. Our highly skilled production team run our workshop in Cambodia and we wish the rest of our team could be onsite daily, however, as an international company some of us are at a distance so we have embraced technology with gusto- we love the cloud and have a lot of screen-sharing time.
Where do you draw inspiration from?
We love beautiful things and don’t believe that to be ethical or sustainable requires sacrificing a love of design and clothing. However, we don’t limit ourselves to simply being inspired by fashion, be it present trends or classic pieces. We get super excited by progressive business models and people striving to convert the current fashion and garment production industry to something more practical, adaptable and kinder. We scope far outside of Cambodia looking to other industries and companies that we think are leading, and are then grounded by the confronting state of the local garment industry right here in Cambodia.
In a world where we are surrounded by fast fashion is it hard to run an ethical business?
It is incredibly hard. Fast fashion has quite literally tricked us all into thinking that we must buy on trend, on sale and often. It is difficult to compete with companies that produce clothing en masse and at the cheapest price possible. Our operations are slower and more expensive and unless there is an opportunity to talk to people about what it really takes to produce a lasting garment in a non-exploitative way we are often overlooked or labeled as expensive. Many fast fashion labels are now incorporating sustainable lines into their offerings and talking about improving their operations which also becomes problematic for the people in the industry that have threaded a consideration for people and the environment through every element of their business. We’re aware that it comes down to awareness, knowledge and long-term change and are excited by the fact that our community is growing quickly. Changes are occurring on a consumer level, people are asking more questions and beginning to understand that running an ethical business is different and with their support businesses operating in the same capacity as ours are able to grow.
You've just moved into an amazing new space, what does the future look like for Dorsu?
Hopefully rapid growth and honest success will be the result of all of the hard work! Our most recent collection is gaining a lot of attention and is only the beginning of what we have coming up.It’s incredibly exciting to be in our new production studio and our customers have been really supportive, telling us they have not experienced anything like it in Cambodia.
For our community that aren’t lucky enough to visit here we’re growing our online range and forging relationships with key stockists to make sure as many people have the chance to wear Dorsu as possible.We also produce custom printed clothing for companies who want to change the way they source their apparel and we now have the space to grow this part of the business. These businesses and organisations know what can happen within conventional supply chains and are aware of the power they have through their purchasing. Buying ethical is a very practical way to create positive impact within their operations.
Long term we want to change the way people look at fashion through an approachable and honest dialogue. We still see so much of the ethical and sustainable fashion space as being unapproachable and elite, or at the other end of the spectrum focused on sad stories of makers and pity.Our team are the same as our customers- real people, with real lives, and they care. We want to bring a fresh openness into this space with an affordable long-lasting product that allows more everyday people to make active change through their clothing purchases. We’re creating a world where clothing isn’t seen as disposable and where ethical production isn’t seen as charity.