She could’ve gotten a high-paying job and received amazing benefits working in the corporate world, but Norashahera Mertens’ priorities took a different turn as she wanted a career that could bring change to environmental issues. Instead of going the professional route after her postgraduate studies in Banking and Finance from the Queen Mary University of London, she joined her friends by volunteering at Biji-Biji.
“I started out all the way from the bottom. In 2013, they were just starting the company and I learnt how to do some carpentry, stitch and collect old materials,” recalls Nora. “We worked as a family, so we did everything and anything together. But four months down the road, they were looking to hire someone to handle the fashion department (that’s how Biji-Biji Ethical Fashion was formed)and I thought to myself, why not give it a try? The rest agreed to the idea and that’s when the company and its initiative was officially introduced.”
Nora says that nothing beats the joy of working with people who are as passionate about their job as she is. “All of us are driven by the same motive – we want to reduce waste production and we don’t mind going the extra mile for this. Some people live with the theory that if you’ve never studied something, you’re not going to be able to pursue it as a career. To me, that’s a myth because look at where I am today. I never studied fashion at all. It boils down to the willingness to learn,” she shares. “I even went to the extent of joining the rest to segregate rubbish at music festivals a few years ago.”
As one of Malaysia’s leading practitioners of sustainable fashion, Biji-Biji is also a member of the World Fair Trade Organisation that uses waste products to create new, stylish items which people can use in their everyday lives. “We’ve proven that waste products can be runway-worthy and in the future, we hope we’ll be able to penetrate into the European and American markets as well,” says Nora.
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