Updated Sept 2019
Over the past 2 years we have worked closely with Dorsu and I have become great friends with Hanna who is one of the amazing Co-Founders. As one of our best selling brands, I wanted you as our customers to know more about the work Dorsu do and the bloody, sweat and tears that goes into running an ethical clothing business from Cambodia.
"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"
Can you tell us about Dorsu and what you do?
Dorsu is grounded in the values of being honest and taking a collaborative approach to changing the fashion industry. We make basics for travel, work and home and encourage people to journey with us on changing the way they see clothing. We design, make and sell our clothing all under one roof. Made to last, be worn across seasons and styled by each individual in their unique way, we offer customers the opportunity to learn the story behind their clothing.
When and how did Dorsu start?
My business partner, Kunthear, and I started working together ten years ago! We started as a small fundraising initiative in collaboration with a local school and the project took off. We sat down just over four years ago and decided to remodel the business, choosing to grow and focus on providing an alternative approach to clothing production here in Cambodia. We’ve grown into a team of twenty, running a production house and international clothing label.
What has challenged you the most since starting you business?
So many things. In many ways, making our own clothes is a huge advantage- we can adapt and respond quickly, don’t need to meet factory minimums, control our own working conditions etc. But, it’s also incredibly challenging finding space to run our brand and run our manufacturing.
Also, the complexities of operating in Cambodia with unestablished systems, unreliable suppliers, corruption and unsupportive government services is not conducive to growing a healthy ethical fashion label.
Lastly, running a business is hard. Don’t let anyone ever tell you it’s not. Especially in our current world of social media and marketing. Sure, the access to information is advantageous and in a lot of ways we’ve literally grown a company by “googling it” but, it’s also dangerous to get caught up in how awesome everything looks from the outside. I try my hardest to have as many open and honest conversations as possible and quite literally couldn’t do this without my community of champions, including you Sam.
Where are your products made?
To create an alternative way. That is the most simplified way to cover all of the things on our agenda. We’re prioritising the wellness of our makers, providing safe jobs where people can actually support their families and build resilience to the changes going on here in Cambodia. We want to see workers prioritised and valued as skilled humans - not exploited for cheap labour across mass-manufacturing supply chains. We then have a variety of actions we’re taking to be as environmentally sustainable as possible. Everything from using remnant fabrics, limiting waste, we’re a single use plastic free workshop, including packaging and shipping, and we pre-wash all of our garments in rain-water. In addition to that we focus on creating as little harm across our supply chain as possible. By opening our door and telling our community as much about our operations as possible, we hope to see consumers embrace their buying power. We believe that people can simultaneously support the growth of small businesses, like ours, while demanding change from fast fashion labels and enormous companies.
Meet the makes: Can you tell us about the people who make your clothes?
I co-own Dorsu with Kunthear. I actually started my career in health, then worked in fair trade and wound up here in Cambodia. Kunthear worked in a garment factory prior to Dorsu. We came together and built a diverse team that now hails from Cambodia, Australia, England, The Philippines and Malaysia. Our design team is Kunthear, myself and one of our distance employees in Australia.
Our garments then move through our production team, who were predominantly working in garment factories before coming to Dorsu. Ranging in age and experience, our production team cut, sew, finish and prepare our garments to be sold in our stores or distributed across our different sales channels. Our management and warehousing team and retail staff then make up the rest of our operations in Kampot.
We also have distance staff working on photography, web and Australian distribution.
Where do you draw inspiration from?
Architecture, music, being in nature and reading about trail-blazing businesses all spark weird creative thought processes in my head- often at weird hours of the day and night.
I’m also a sucker for an “epic mission” story about people who achieve insane feats, like my friend walking 3000+ km across Asia to tell positive fashion stories, or some of my business idols starting entire companies from selling one garment at a local market.