Spotlight: Audris Quek of Paradigm Shift Label

In today’s society where instant gratification is all the rage, Audris, founder of Paradigm Shift Label (PSL) has chosen to challenge this norm. As we chatted, one thing was apparent to me — she strongly believes in producing ethical products because God loves the makers behind these products. Instead of choosing products solely based on low cost and convenience, she chooses to re-examine the supply chain and question the origins of products. Now 25, Audris is set on shifting the paradigms of consumers, one dress at a time.

Hi Audris! What does PSL stand for?
PSL is an ethical fashion label and its vision is to clothe people with strength and dignity — whether they are the makers of the products or the consumers. I hope that people will associate themselves with the ‘Paradigm Shift Lady’: she breaks social norms, carries powerful influence, and evokes positive change. Beyond fashion, the brand is about people and empowering the makers and consumers to be catalysts for change.

What does fashion mean to you?
When I was younger, I used to think that fashion was just about chasing trends and dressing to look good. The way I used to dress would say something like “Hey, look at me! I’m fashionable. I know what’s in and what’s not.”

But really, fashion can become one’s identity and people use fashion to make a statement. So, to me, fashion is an expression of yourself and your identity.

Fashion today promotes wearing shorter and tighter clothes, and to show more skin. In birthing PSL, God impressed the word “modesty” upon my heart. I gradually realised that fashion has subtly stolen many young women’s identities. Fashion “dictates” us to dress in accordance with what’s in-trend or gets more attention. I hope the apparel from PSL can clothe women in styles that are modest, modern, and enable them to feel confident and contented. What we wear can “beautify” us, but beauty truly comes from within! Our body is a temple of God and we should glorify Him with it.

Could you share how you started PSL?
When I was 14, my class was asked, “What is your dream?” I wrote down three things: to design my own products (clothing), have my own business, and use the money to help the less fortunate. However, I completely forgot about this dream till I was 22. I left my job in the events industry due to burn-out. All I had was just a diploma in events management; there was not much else that I could really branch into. Out of desperation, I asked God,

“Where can I go from here?” I had a call for missions and I wondered, “God, is the time now?” I heard nothing.

I then asked myself, “Audris, if there are no limitations in the world, what would you want to do?” I was reminded of my dream at 14, but I discounted it as an unreachable dream since I had no background in fashion or arts. But I sensed that the Holy Spirit said, “Who do you think put that dream in you?” I was shocked; I always thought that fashion is a worldly thing and that dream came from my flesh. I realised that God cared about fashion!

Within two weeks, the Lord opened the door for me to step into the fashion industry to learn the ropes of how to manage a fashion business. A month later, while chilling in my room on a weekend, the Holy Spirit dropped the words “paradigm shift” into my mind. I thought, “Have I been very prideful, and there’s something He wants me to see differently?” But God’s response was, “That will be the fashion label we will start in the future.” I found it hard to believe.

I WAS ASKING GOD, “I THOUGHT I WAS MEANT TO BE A MISSIONARY. WHY AM I DOING THIS BUSINESS THING? ” AND I FELT GOD SAID TO ME, “THIS IS BUSINESS AS MISSIONS.”

After nine months, I felt like God had given me the business’s blueprint and even inspired me with the products’ design! God challenged me to take a leap of faith to leave my job and to start PSL. But I told him, “God, why now? I don’t have enough funds.” He replied that He needed to start the fashion label when I had nothing, so that when people looked at the brand, they would know it was God who started it, because only God could make something out of nothing.

In the next two to three months, God also introduced the idea of building a kickstarter campaign, and I headed to Nepal for a recce trip. On the plane, I was asking God, “I thought I was meant to be a missionary. Why am I doing this business thing?” And I felt God said to me, “This is business as missions.”

Once back from Nepal, I praise God that PSL managed to raise almost $13,000 in 40 days from 155 backers. I finally had enough funds to move into production. And the rest is history.

What have been some of the highs and lows of PSL thus far?
Apart from supporting the makers, hearing stories from consumers about how PSL’s products have changed their perceptions of fashion and how they are now more aware of modest dressing also warms my heart. Another high was when I was able to pay myself with the profits from PSL. Starting PSL was uncertain in the beginning, so it was very fulfilling to be able to pay myself!

The lows would be about managing differing expectations from people. There are days when I would spiral into this hole of thinking, “I’m not doing enough” or “I’m not good enough,” and question if I am the right steward to run PSL. Thankfully, God assures and comforts me. He sends people to remind me that He wants me to steward PSL and press on. It is so important to not get caught up with what everyone says but to ask Him for creative solutions and plans.

Audris working on PSL

ULTIMATELY, I BELIEVE THAT WE SHOULD NEITHER EXPLOIT PEOPLE NOR OUR PLANET. IF WE CARE ABOUT PEOPLE, SURELY WE MUST CARE FOR OUR PLANET TOO!

Since PSL’s heart is about being an ethical fashion label, how has that changed your buying patterns?
Ever since becoming an advocate for ethical brands, I have learned how to be a more responsible and thoughtful consumer. I used to think that if a product is cheap and convenient, I would buy it. Our generation goes for instant gratification, but being more aware of ethics and the people behind products has helped me to slow down and rethink my buying patterns. Now, I ask “Where was it made?”, “Who made it?”, and “How was it made?” I give more thought to the supply chain and not just the instant gratification of the purchase itself.

PSL started out with the aim of being purely an ethical label. However, I now see the importance of caring for our planet too and PSL is gradually moving towards becoming a sustainable brand too. At the start, we used natural material like cotton, linen, and biodegradable plastic as much as possible, but it was not a priority. However, I am now very intentional in the materials we use!

Our signature “Long Black” is made using an upcycled fabric from Nepal’s local market. That has really helped set the tone for moving into being sustainable. Ultimately, I believe that we should neither exploit people nor our planet. If we care about people, surely we must care for our planet too.

What do you think God is calling you to do with PSL in the near future?
One of the things God spoke to me clearly about is that PSL will bridge the gap between the developed and developing world. It has a part to play in alleviating poverty and to speak up for the defenceless. PSL will be used to shift paradigms in different areas — whether it’s shifting the mindset of a consumer who may have a certain view of trendy fashion to what modest fashion looks like, or the minds of people in the manufacturing scene as to how they view the makers of products.

PSL also aims to help the makers stand on their own two feet through job provisions and stable income. PSL is doing that now in small measures by partnering certain manufacturers but in the long run, we hope to effect greater change. All of this sounds overwhelming and idealistic at times, but I believe that if He is leading PSL there, He will provide every step of the way.

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