Mistakes can be a blessing in disguise

MISTAKES can be a blessing in disguise, says the owner of Anyati’s Boutique and Atelier.

Anyati Abdullah Orcullo tells The Brunei Times, “I learn from my mistakes, my people … and they learn from me.”

Her mistakes have made Anyati realise that it is important to know the A to Z of your own business. “There was a time when I left the business entirely up to my staff, that was the biggest mistake I could have made. But after examining my weaknesses and mistakes in the business, I knew I had to learn all the crucial points of my business,” says Anyati, referring to her inability to put her designs onto paper.

She said that some mistakes has been a blessing in disguise as they have equipped her with a different skill set and knowledge.

Anyati had initially hired three different designers to help her with the boutique, but says that they did not know how to execute and only knew how to draw.

“That is the exact reverse of what I do, I look at the cloth and get ideas before designing them which is the opposite from what the conventional designer is. They are very prescriptive and go (in sequence),” she says.

“Sometimes people come in with material and say they don’t know what to do with it, that’s why they come to us and we will take care of it for them. But when my last designer left, it became an instrument to allow me to learn something so crucial for the business; from then (on), I learnt how to draw because I need to put my ideas on paper so that my customers can visually see what to expect,” says Anyati.

Anyati’s Boutique and Atelier was borne out of her passion for clothes. The business owner had mastered some tailoring skills from her mother who was also a seamstresss.

“At the age of 10, I knew how to stitch and from there I used to cut tiny little patterns to stitch and eventually make a big quilt for a blanket. My mom too was a very good seamstress, which gave me some experience,” says Anyati, adding that when she came to Brunei from the Philippines after marrying her husband, she had not much to do.

“I was a lecturer at a university previously, so I was quite the workaholic. Business though, never occurred in my mind, so when I came here, I stitched as a hobby. The idea of a business was scary because I was not accustomed to taking risks,” Anyati reveals, adding that her husband had initially suggested she set up a school but she declined due to the high amount of capital needed.

She wanted to do something that didn’t require a large sum of money, that she loved and was familiar with.

“So that came the idea of my boutique,” says Anyati. “However,” she adds, “when I started, I had no idea of the fashion in Brunei. I knew it’s going to be conservative but the orientation of Muslims in the South of Philippines is such a big difference from here.”

Anyati’s was established with just three staff (including Anyati herself), which has now been expanded to a team of 12.

Besides the lack of knowledge of Bruneian’s fashion sense, she says that the other big challenge was to design, which led her to hire designers.

“I had difficulty connecting with him (one of the designers) though, we lacked tandem. So I had gone through three different designers where the last one had other intentions and handing over the running of the boutique to the third designer was my biggest mistake,” she admits.

As for the challenges she’s facing now, Anyati says it’s getting more customers, luring them from the competition and trying to cater to everyone.

“I already have the product and service I intend to do, I have found a niche. But I must cater to others as well, not just in Brunei. Because, really, in a society that is very conservative, you are actually limited to a cut that is very commonly done by most tailors,” she says.

Anyati declares that “fashion is a lifestyle”, a justification for setting a particular price range for her baju kurung which is sometimes called into question.

“Would you like to just be measured and go? No, fashion has to do with the process of making the dress.

“You wear something because there is a memory of it. You have to differentiate your brand with the other. It is not the end product, but the process of how you are involved in the entire design. Your customer needs to feel that she is designing it and not the tailor,” she says.

Communication is key. Anyati believes that problems arises when there is a failure to communicate.

In the future, Anyati is looking to bring her brand to the Philippines. “That’s my next target, because I already have a few clients and a good network there,” she says.

Anyati says she has a selected group of clientele in the Philippines women who want to look different and unique.

“I will probably bring in wedding gowns, that’s what my focus is on now. I was trying to test the market there and I found it very very challenging because of the quality and designs they have there,” she says.

An advantage that Anyati has though, is the fusion of East and West, especially when fashion in the Philippines is more Western orientated.

She believes that if she incorporates a more intricate designs, she can do it within the next three to four years.

There is still so much potential for growth in the Brunei market, she says. Anyati would like to explore more of the Bruneian market because she says that only a small fraction has been conquered.

“There are people who are into modernising the baju kurung which is a dress where (there is) more (to it) than meets the eye,” Anyati says.


Monday, November 22, 2010

The Brunei Times