It’s no secret that fast fashion has been thriving in Myanmar for decades. Mass-produced clothes come onto the market as quickly as they go out of style. They are bought cheap and discarded later in favor of the following year’s trend.
Everything has its price, however. What we save at the counter is paid for by our planet. Estimates suggest that around one million tons of microplastics end up in the oceans every year, and that 35% of them come from the washing of synthetic textiles.
MYANMORE has been supporting local slow fashion brands for years. We identify and feature fashion companies with a sustainable approach so our readers have an alternative. Willow Clothing is one such brand. Here we spoke with two visionary women who believe fashion and sustainability go hand in hand.
First, introduce us to your team and tell us how Willow was born.
I’m Ni Ni Myint, CEO of Willow and this is Nandar Khin, Creative Director of the company. The idea of creating the Willow brand started in 2021 when I came back from Sydney, Australia at the end of 2021. I couldn’t find affordable, simple and quality clothes for children and parents in the Myanmar market and it t was then that I discussed this challenge. with Nandar. Nandar has been in the apparel/ready-to-wear industry for a few years and agrees there is a problem that needs to be addressed. Our research and interviews with parents also confirmed the problem statement.
We are not a fan of fast fashion trends and we don’t want to create unnecessary waste for the environment. In general, we favor quality over quantity. Moreover, we aim to go for simple and versatile designs so that they can be reused for different occasions and never go out of style.
So we decided to create something for our customers that matches what we believe in and the needs of our target market.
We saw the first collection and were amazed by their simplicity and elegance. Who and what inspires you?
Our brand was born from five main values: minimalism, simplicity, timelessness, versatility and quality. These values are very dear to our hearts and we practice them on a daily basis.
We work hard to incorporate them into our products, starting with design and fabric selection. Our linen cotton fabric is very suitable for the Myanmar climate and it is something we can wear whatever the season. For example, our shirt dress is simple but you can wear it in different ways depending on the occasion. You can roll up the sleeves, button up, or wear sandals or heels to get a different perspective. Onesie is another product that we think could be worn by both baby boys and girls.
Where do you get the materials?
We source our materials locally whenever possible. At the moment, since we are strict on quality, we source fabric from overseas. Some of the materials are directly ordered from a factory in Thailand. Most other raw materials, including packaging, come from Myanmar and are made here with our local partners.
What challenges are you facing now?
Due to the Covid situation, the logistical organization is a challenge at the moment. Additionally, the scarcity of technical talent to improve, maintain and govern quality are the areas we are struggling with right now.
In addition, market requirements are constantly changing and evolving rapidly. We must ensure that we listen to our customers on a daily basis.
Since Burmese people are used to fast fashion, when it comes to clothing brands like Willow, most people think they are too expensive. What is your strategy to keep the price affordable without compromising the quality of the materials?
I would say that our brand is far from being “too expensive”. If you carefully analyze the market, our sales prices are lower than the average market prices. We source locally as much as possible to reduce costs and develop local talent. We have also carefully priced our products based on the analysis of the country’s revenue segments carried out by professional firms such as Deloitte, for example. Considering the quality of the materials and the design structure that we have invested in, our customers get a quality product at a very minimum price. Additionally, we are always innovating to be the market leader in cost and differentiation models.
How do you think consumers can help local businesses and shop sustainably?
Through our products, we aim to bring our brand values to customers. Instead of buying foreign brands, consumers can explore ways to use local products to promote the country’s economy and supplier landscape. Our packaging material contains no plastic and is reusable for other purposes. For example, a customer can use our packing box as a storage box or as a paper wrapper to protect the items from dust. Our tag can also be used as a bookmark.
Do you plan to take custom orders in the future?
Rather than customizing, we plan to diversify our products in the future by bringing more sizes to fit different body types and functional product designs for various occasions.
Tell us about your goal for Willow.
Our mission is to be the market leader by providing simple, quality products that are accessible to customers of all income levels and that help strengthen family ties. One of our goals is to bring Willow to a global market in the near future.
Willow’s first collection was introduced the first week of August 2022.
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Photos are courtesy of Willow Clothing. Follow on Facebook or shop on their website.