Do Good

Fashion for good: Paradigm Shift the label

Audris Quek // January 28, 2019, 6:17 pm

Meeting locals 2

Founded by Audris Quek, 23, the ethical fashion label aims to break mindsets that skinnier and skimpier are better, remind women of their worth and provide good jobs for people in Nepal. 

I had a phase as a teenager where I did not know my identity, and the way I dressed was very much influenced by what I saw on Tumblr.

Fashion is an identity. The trends today tell us that we are to dress and look a certain way. People get trapped and obsessed trying to fit themselves into that mould to feel accepted.

Truth is, the bulk of us are not having a wardrobe crisis – we’re having an identity crisis. I was trying to be somebody else because I did not know who I was.

My hope is for Paradigm Shift to serve as a reminder of a lady’s worth and set some on the journey of discovering their own identity.

“Paradigm Shift” I heard these words almost audibly in October 2017. “On what, Lord?” I asked. Almost immediately, He replied: “That will be the fashion label we will start in the future.” It had only been a month since I’d joined the fashion industry.

Prior to that, I was working in events, which had given me wonderful opportunities. Though this job wasn’t the most fulfilling, I thought I’d stay on to build a good resume and learn as much as I can.

I felt the Lord ask me, “Who do you think put that dream in you?”

It all ended after an overseas work trip that left me traumatised by what this kind of work entailed, and I returned home stricken with panic attacks.

I knew I couldn’t afford to be in another toxic working environment. And I couldn’t bring myself to interview for another events-related job.

It was then that I sat down and really asked myself, “If there were no limitations and you could do anything, what would it be?”

How do I find my calling in life?

As I reflected, I had a flashback of a particular scene in secondary school where a handout was given to us. Under the question “What is your dream?”, I had written: “To have my own business, design my own products and use the money to help the less fortunate.”

It was buried deep in my memory, almost forgotten. It was then I felt the Lord ask me: “Who do you think put that dream in you?”

To receive such a divine revelation at what was probably the lowest point of my life placed in me a sensing that the Lord actually wanted to use this valley experience to propel me into my destiny.

I began to track the prophetic words that had been previously spoken over my life. Bit by bit, I realised that things were pointing towards missions, media, redefining fashion and the country of Nepal. 

Having absolutely no background in fashion or art, I’d always said that being a designer was a far-fetched dream that would remain “just a dream”. But miraculously, a month after I started recovering from the burnout, a door opened for me to step into the fashion industry.

In faith, I took it and started working as a marketing executive for a local fashion label. In my 10 months there, I was given many opportunities to learn not just about marketing, but also how to manage a fashion business, and the basics of fashion design, sewing, pattern-making and the works!

Nine months after I heard the words “Paradigm Shift”, the time came when I knew I had to leave. It was a really tough decision to make because this place had grown into my comfort zone.

But it really felt like the right time to birth the dream into being. Through months of prayer and seeking, the Lord laid out the purpose of what the business meant to serve. He even inspired me with the designs and challenged me to step out of the boat.

Sketching for the “Long Black”, Paradigm Shift’s versatile black dress

But how was I going to start a business? I had nothing to my name! I was seriously not qualified, neither for fashion nor business. Was this all just in my head? When I shared this idea with respected individuals, many told me it was not practical. Some friends laughed at it like I was crazy.

There were a handful who encouraged me to go for it, but by then I was in severe doubt. Maybe there’s a better time, a few years down the road, when I actually have the capability to start a business like this. I had all these thoughts and opinion of men swimming in my head.

If the business was established at a time where I had nothing, only then would people know it wasn’t me, but God who built everything.

Then, God gave me clarity through the Scripture. 

“My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.

“If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him, But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for he who doubts is like a wave of the sea driven and tossed by the wind.” (James 1:2-7 NKJV)

Birthing Paradigm Shift was and is a journey of faith and obedience, of trusting in the Lord and not my own understanding. I realised that if the business were to be established at a time where I had nothing, only then would people know it wasn’t me, but God who built everything.

What is impossible with men is possible with God (Luke 18:27). That’s how I jumped into building Paradigm Shift with my Dads – my earthly dad and my Heavenly Father.

After 2 months of a lot of market research, crafting brand strategy and looking for potential partners, it was time to start raising capital and developing the apparel we were going to put up on Kickstarter.

My Dad and I journeyed to Nepal in search for the right manufacturer – one that was truly ethical. Before the trip, I reached out to a Youth With A Mission (YWAM) base in Nepal who recommended accommodation that was near a prayer house.

Audris with her friends from Nepal

At that time, I only had one Nepalese friend – a fellow brother-in-Christ. He was the local tour guide my school had engaged for an overseas learning experience back in 2014. When I shared my choice of accommodation with him, he told me that he was now working there as a guide! 

That, was a defining moment for me. I mean, Nepal is huge! There are hundreds and thousands of accommodations and trekking agencies, but he just had to be working at the one I was going to. This couldn’t be a coincidence – with God, there are no coincidences!

After that conversation, my doubts in the journey I was undertaking faded and faith arose. I felt so assured that God was taking care of everything, that He saw the end from the beginning and the beginning from the end. He would be with us every step of the way.

I heard God say, “This is business as missions. Your mission is to carry My love everywhere you go.”

There were days on the trip where we got to meet locals on the street, pray for the sick and share the Good News of Jesus. 

Through this trip, we eventually found the perfect partner in Purnaa, whose values aligned with ours and was already doing everything I had in my heart for Paradigm Shift and the nation of Nepal.

By being an ethical, slow label, we hope to increase job opportunities at our chosen manufacturer in Nepal that employs marginalised people and survivors of exploitation. The employees are paid fairly, treated with dignity and trained with skills.

The fast-fashion industry is modern-day slavery. Often the real makers of apparel are not paid fairly and forced into long working hours to fulfil the production orders. While we, a first-world nation, purchase the work of their hands at an affordable price, someone in a third-world nation is paying the price with their lives.

On my flight back home, I heard God say: “This is business as missions. Your mission is to carry My love everywhere you go.”

Audris at Paradigm Shift’s launch of the Long Black

Paradigm Shift was eventually fully funded via a Kickstarter campaign at the end of 40 days with 155 backers. I was overwhelmed by the love and generosity of friends and family, and help sent along the way that was undeniably by God.

I have learnt that people are far more supportive than we think. And we have to be patient with ourselves and trust in God’s perfect timing. Once we get over self-doubt and others’ opinions, when we focus on the one voice that truly matters, that’s when alignment happens.

To those thinking about stepping out on that journey of destiny with Him: Always ask God what He thinks and prioritise His thoughts above everyone else’s. I love that in the midst of a storm, as long as we keep our eyes fixed on Him, walking on water is just the beginning.

Paradigm Shift was one of the contributors of our 2018 Christmas Giveaway. Audris gave away three of her Long Black dresses to the friends of our winners – in their sizes!

The girls modelling (almost) every size of the Long Black dress

To purchase the Long Black dress, visit Paradigm Shift’s website. You can also follow their journey on Instagram @paradigmshiftlabel.