“I went to the US to study English and ended up learning fashion. I have always liked drawing since I was a little girl but had no idea what it takes to be a fashion designer, so I started out by taking a very short design course at Parson School of Design. I really liked it and my teacher advised me to take a full-time course at the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York to get more experience. From there, I took a 2-year program and then my teacher said, ‘You are ready to go into the real world.’ So I started working first in a big company that produced for Walmart and then for a smaller company that made ready-to-wear for women. It was a great experience, but I realized that I didn’t like the ready-to-wear because it is not as creative. You don’t get to design and handle fabrics very much. You are on your computer all the time and dealing with suppliers. That’s how a lot of fashion companies work. So I decided to go back to school and take a course on haute couture and then worked for another company as a pattern maker. There is so much variety in the fashion industry and you just need to find out what’s the right place for you.”

“Here it’s not customary for brides to keep their wedding dresses, so they usually rent it rather than buy it. Many places offer wedding packages where you can rent 4 dresses for a photo shoot pre-wedding and a big gown for the reception. It’s hard for a startup to compete with established companies, so instead of doing it the same way as everyone else, I decided to focus on custom-made dresses for brides, which few places offer. I see growing demand for this. There are lots of people that value their individuality and don’t want to look like everybody else. They want to be unique.”

“Finding skilled seamstresses is a big challenge in the fashion industry in Thailand. There are many seamstresses looking for work but most of them don’t have proper training; they have only worked in factories, sometimes starting when they were children. So you need to invest a lot of time and patience in training them to produce this type of clothing. Being a seamstress is repetitive and low-paid so if people have a choice, they want to do something else. They prefer office work if they are educated. But if you are a skilled seamstress, you can actually get a good job and be paid well. Through my work and my teaching, I hope to encourage more people to see this as a valuable profession and become skilled seamstresses.”

“I wasn’t planning on teaching, but then a friend that was starting a clothes brand asked me to teach her how to make clothes. I finally accepted, gathered 5 students, and developed a 10-week curriculum based on what I had learned in school and my own experience. The results were great and the word spread quickly so now I teach both Saturdays and Sundays. It is very satisfying and I am very proud of my students. Some people can’t even draw a straight line when they start and then finish with a portfolio of their own. This lady started with me a year and a half ago and now she helps me doing embroidery.”

“When you start a business in Thailand, social networking is very important. You have to go out and see a lot of people and let people know about you. Getting to know the press and getting the press to like you is also something very important here. And it takes time and lots of marketing for people to recognize your brand. It’s not a one-time effort. I am starting small and I know I have to focus on PR so I am planning a marketing campaign with celebrities wearing my creations to their events. I am building trust because investing in a good dress is an important decision to make and you need to feel you can trust the place.”

“It’s tough being my own boss; I have never done it before. You need to be very disciplined about your work. If something is not right, you need to tell your employees and if they keep doing it, you need to be tough. I try to be a kind boss but kind can sometimes be interpreted as borderline weak. It’s a tough industry and can be very mean but I want to build a happy work environment.”

“You never really feel that you are ready. You always have things to learn but you can’t wait until you know everything. You keep learning all the time so you have to set a date and start. I started with just a Facebook page and a blog. I spent a lot of time following lots of bloggers and sorting through beautiful pictures on Tumblr and Pinterest before finding my own style. A lot of my students are not sure about what they want to do, what type of garment they want to focus on. I tell them to start going on Pinterest and see what they like, to work hard; and don’t be afraid to get out of their comfort zone and do menial work. The fashion industry looks so glamorous but so much of it is not glamorous at all.”

Company: Nhoo Matthews
Location: Bangkok
Founded: 2014
No of Employees: 1

Women-owned & led