Meet an Eco-warrior: Audris Quek of Ethical Fashion Label, Paradigm Shift

Posted by Souley Green on

There’s a reason why the black dress (or anything black, for that matter) is a staple in most people’s wardrobes. It’s clean, it’s flattering, it’s simple, it’s quick to dress up, it’s chic, it’s timeless. But finding one that’s perfect for you isn’t exactly easy. Audris Adabella Quek, the owner and founder of ethical fashion label Paradigm Shift, understands your predicament.

Audris has the answer

Her need for such an outfit for work and for everyday was what spurred her to create THE LONG BLACK dress. (Which we predict will be your new fashion must-have.) What makes it different from other black dresses? (Aside from it being inspired by the lovely caffeinated drink.) It’s a classic, functional and affordable cut that’s made by Purnaa, an ethical manufacturer from Nepal.

What’s more, Audris achieved her Kickstarter campaign goal of S$12,000 in 40 days to help fund the making of THE LONG BLACK dress, as well as the development of Paradigm Shift. Supporters and backers will receive the dress by end of February 2019. We can’t wait. :)

Can you imagine receiving this in the mail?

But we also can’t wait to hear about her adventures – plus her thoughts on partnering with Purnaa, getting to help others with her brand, how ethical fashion is the way to go moving forward, and what comes after THE LONG BLACK. And how does she liven up her own THE LONG BLACK dress, anyway? :) We’re sure we’re not the only ones who’d love to know!

Your search for the perfect, versatile, long black dress took five years, and when you did find options, they were expensive. With all the stores and clothes available out there, why do you think that is?
Audris: “I think there aren’t many brands out there that are intentional about creating pieces that are truly well thought through in their design. Running a fashion business is expensive, and I think most companies are out to make a profit. The brands that spend much time and effort in developing a ‘perfect’ piece demand four to five times the return, which results in a high-selling price. On the other hand, fast fashion would compromise the time given to develop the product and, more importantly, the quality of the apparel.”

Has your style always been on the minimalist side? How would you describe your aesthetic?
“No, actually! Growing up, I’d dress according to what the seemingly latest trend was; and on some days, according to my mood. When I feel ‘loud’, I’d throw on some colours, prints, and chunks of accessories. Only until I turned about 18 that I realised my simple monochromatic outfits made me feel the most comfortable and confident. They were also easy to match, and I enjoyed the fuss-free mornings when I didn’t have to rack my brain on what to wear. Somehow, dressing simply gave me clarity of mind. I would now describe my aesthetic as minimal and chic.”

How did the founding of Paradigm Shift and making THE LONG BLACK dress changed the way you shopped, and how you live your life?
“Hahaha! I now have this mindset of leaving my wardrobe space just for Paradigm Shift apparel. I probably got less than three new pieces of clothing within the past six months. One reason is that I wear THE LONG BLACK so often, it really is my go-to dress. I don’t feel the need for more clothes.

“Another is a conscious choice and decision to not contribute to the fast-fashion industry. The founding of Paradigm Shift has educated me on fast fashion, modern-day slavery, and the environmental pollution that comes with it. This journey has caused me to become a conscious shopper. I always ask myself, ‘Do I really need this?’. Most times the answer is no and I walk away happy, knowing that I’ve practised self-control and also saved myself some money and space!”

We love what Paradigm Shift stands for

When you look back on your journey with Paradigm Shift and THE LONG BLACK dress, what are some of the things you remember the most?
“There were a few defining moments for me: Getting over self-doubt. Stepping out into the unknown, by faith and by having faith that ultimately overthrew the fear. When the right people walked into my life, helping me to align the whole vision of Paradigm Shift and making sense out of it. I remember the encouragement from friends and family all around, and learning that people are far more supportive than we think. Of course, also meeting the Nepal team. I will never forget the look on my sample maker’s face in Nepal when I got to say thank you. It was a beautiful moment of appreciating each other. Tears welled up in her eyes, and I was so moved by that.”

Is working with Purnaa everything you imagined it to be?
“Everything and more! Working with Purnaa taught me so much. Their expertise simplified the entire development process. They’re clear in their communication and honest with the challenges (if any) in making THE LONG BLACK. The team is humble and patient, very willing to explore and make improvements alongside Paradigm Shift. I love how quality is at the heart of our partnership – Paradigm Shift and Purnaa always have the consumer in mind when we make decisions. Being there with them to develop THE LONG BLACK was such a joy! Purnaa focuses on their employees, which reminds me, time and time again, why Paradigm Shift exists. It’s more than just a fashion label, it’s for a great cause for people – for both the makers and the customers.”

At Purnaa, you’ll meet your THE LONG BLACK maker

What have you learnt about collaborating with Purnaa and its employees? And about ethical manufacturing?
“Having seen documentaries on unethical fashion, then actually visiting unethical factories, I must commend Purnaa for truly being an ethical manufacturer! Not only do the employees get to work in good working conditions and in communities, they’re also trained with life skills – and their children get access to education! I think that what they’re doing is great; more than providing jobs, they’re building lives.

“For Paradigm Shift and our customers who are directly contributing to the cause now, we’re slowly but surely bridging the gap between the First and Third World. We can’t save the world, but we can all make a difference.

“I’ve learnt that business isn’t necessarily all about who has the upper hand, or that it’s as malicious as I was warned it could be. A partnership with the same mission in mind can lead to many meaningful friendships, conversations and work! We’re a profit-making business, but not profit-driven. Someone once told me, ‘Don’t do it if you’re in it for the money.’ I couldn’t agree more! It’s not all about the money. Money helps us get and achieve our goal, but money isn’t the goal. Our ultimate goal is to empower people.”

Have you come up with other ways to wear and dress up THE LONG BLACK dress? What are your absolute favourite ways or styles?
“For a simple dress like THE LONG BLACK, the best way is to accessorise it with a hat, or statement outerwear, earrings, a necklace, belt or watch, and your favourite pair of shoes! My favourite way is to wear it with earrings and sneakers. I’d also carry a cropped denim jacket with me if I’m going somewhere cold!”

Proof that THE LONG BLACK dress goes perfectly with everything and everyone

The dress will be delivered end of February 2019. What are your hopes for it?
“My hope is that it would satisfy our customers and that it will allow them to experience those fuss-free mornings! I mean, you really can’t go wrong with a dress like that, plus it’s so comfy that I could sleep in it.

“We’re doing an Insta Story highlight on our page, featuring customers wearing THE LONG BLACK in cafés that they want to recommend to fellow coffee lovers! I started with Percolate café. Help us start a trend – good things are meant to be shared.”

When will we see other collections from Paradigm Shift? And what’s next for you?
“We hope to launch THE FLAT WHITE in April or May 2019! Then one new design every two months from there. Being a slow fashion label, we’re not in a rush to create new styles. Rather, we look into every detail and ensure that the material is of quality. The reason why we take a little more time is because of the sourcing and sampling phase. Time is needed to perfect the cut, so that every person who gets to own them can look and feel confident in it! I also can’t do this on my own, so I’m starting to look for a team to run Paradigm Shift with me.”

Watch out for more of Paradigm Shift’s promising designs

Paradigm Shift came about because of the lack of great wardrobe essentials. So what would we see if we peeked inside your closet?
“Hahaha! In my wardrobe, you’ll see the ‘column of essentials’ on the left. My tops and dresses are colour-coordinated, hanging on the right. In the ‘column of essentials’, we have my denim bottoms and numerous plain monochromatic tees (a result of my hunt for the perfect tee). The other compartments don’t have the essentials but they have my skirts, statement bottoms and running tracks.”

And finally, what would make up your idea of the essentials?
“My idea of the essentials would consist of the following eight pieces: a black dress (THE LONG BLACK in my case), a perfect white tee, an oversized black tee, my go-to pair of jeans, a pair of culottes, a denim jacket, a blazer, and a pair of white sneakers.”

Inspired by this eco-warrior feature? We have more to come – make sure to visit the blog! :)

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