29/01/2014 - 14:07

Cutting the thread to poverty

29/01/2014 - 14:07

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A Perth fashion designer is playing a part, admittedly small, to help disenfranchised Indonesians by providing them with work and opportunities.

Cutting the thread to poverty
HOME CONNECTION: Petra Vanessie is ensuring success in Australia filters through to her homeland of Indonesia. Photo: Attila Csaszar

About 11.5 per cent of Indonesians live below the poverty line according to that country’s national statistics agency, and in a population of about 248 million that means almost 29 million people can’t meet the daily costs of living.

A Perth fashion designer is playing a part, admittedly small, to help disenfranchised Indonesians by providing them with work and opportunities, reducing some of the financial stress in the process.

Petra Vanessie has built her fashion label in Perth for the past three years, while employing seamstresses in her homeland of Indonesia.

While benefitting from lower labour costs, Ms Vanessie is ensuring she does it in a socially responsible way.

Ms Vanessie is leveraging growing demand for her designs in Australia to benefit disadvantaged women in Indonesia.

After moving to Australia at age 10, and having lived in Perth for 22 years, Ms Vanessie returned to Indonesia in 2010 and spent a year in Jakarta learning the skills of the design and seam-stressing trade from her grandmother.

She said establishing a manufacturing network there was a logical extension and a process that worked following her return to Perth in 2011.

But she’s been careful to ensure her self-made rule of employing disadvantaged women is adhered to.

“I’ve always been a big believer in giving back to the communities I belong to, and providing opportunities for women has been really important to me,” Ms Vanessie told Business News.

“I wanted to give back in a certain way so I’ve employed women who are experiencing a lot of financial trouble, can’t find a job, or are housebound, and I’ve created conditions for them where they can work from home.”

Many of Ms Vanessie’s employees have poignant stories of financial hardship, including her Indonesian operations manager.

“She’s a single mum of two and couldn’t really find a job after being abandoned by her husband,” Ms Vanessie said.

Payment is negotiated with consideration given to the personal situation of each seamstress so they have enough income to support their families, with a little extra for savings.

One of the employees has used the savings to open her own sewing centre in collaboration with friends, of which Ms Vanessie is now a client.

Meanwhile, Ms Vanessie’s design business is slowly blooming in Perth. She started selling her wares in markets around town and has just launched an online store to keep orders flowing in between events.

Her ultimate aim is to have a bricks and mortar store, despite the difficult current retail trading conditions.

“If I did go down that road of having a store, in today’s current environment I would have to continue to make it special for customers,” Ms Vanessie said.

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