Making waves in the local’s tailoring scene, Dato Asfarena Samion founder of Arena Fashion & Design Institute (AFDI) has a growth mindset and a plan to transform the local tailoring landscape and it engages women to do it. She has been actively empowering women from B40 group especially housewives in mastering skills.
As one of those pioneering women, she has some notable contributions in the tailoring industry. In 2018, Dato Asfarena has successfully trained quite a number of skilful women under the protege programme in starting mini tailoring factories catering suburban areas as in Tawau, Johor, Pahang and Selangor. Through her hard work and dedication, AFDI has broken Malaysia Book of Records twice in 2016 and 2018 which marked as their biggest achievements.
From banking to tailoring
Much like other successful entrepreneurs, everyone has their own story on how they build their empire. For a mother of five children, her move to the tailoring industry wasn’t her initial intention let alone making it as her permanent career. It all happened 20 years ago when she left her job in the banking sector as a Head of the Account Department at the age of 27 to take care of her children.
For me, I believe that humans can be limitless if they believe they are.
Without any background in sewing and the fact that it was completely different from her previous corporate line, she braved the path and took it as a hobby. From solely a hobby, coincidentally, it turned into a career. Slowly, she started taking orders from customers and she enjoyed doing it.
Her biggest inspiration
I was amazed by her spirit and strong leadership skill so I told myself that one day I will meet her personally after my business is doing well.
“I had no proper shop and with the profit that I collected for three years, I managed to open a boutique in Jalan 222, Petaling Jaya. I didn’t have any online medium to market my business, so it all happened via friends’ recommendation.”
She then met late Datuk Dr Wira Maznah Hamid during a seminar back in 2001. Amazed by her spirit and strong leadership, she wished to follow her step. Since then, they both became best friend and empowering each
Empowering women in B40
In 2000, Asfarena Fashion & Design was born. “My first intention prior starting AFDI was to train SPM leavers on obtaining skills. We focused on the Malaysian Skills Certificate (SKM). From there, we started to get offers from the government agencies in training women from B40.”
She had been working closely with Kuala Lumpur City Hall (DBKL), Ministry of Human Resources and Ministry of Women, Family and Community Development to name a few. “I train women in Sabah and Sarawak in creating handmade crafts using fabrics. To date, I have 5,000-6,000 students across Malaysia.”
Turning trauma into triumph
Talking about the hardest experience in doing business, she shared her intimate story that she fondly kept to herself all these while. A drastic incident happened in 2010 where she had a marriage crisis that led to a divorce. “Honestly, when it first happened I can’t comprehend and I was dwelling in sorrow for three months. I was lucky to have Dato Maznah as my friend and mentor who kept pushing me to get up and start all over again.”
I locked myself for months unable to do anything. I was mentally and physically demotivated.
She took a break from the business and went to perform umrah hoping that she can get her life back. Upon coming back from umrah, she was determined to plan everything from scratch. With only RM 1,000 in hand, she employed her staff back and sold her house and boutique to fully focus on the training centre, AFDI.
Walk the talk
Dato Asfarena invested to position herself as a qualified trainer and tailor. She took an e-learning course from the Textile Institution in the UK to obtain a professional Degree in Apparel Product Development. Long down the road, she did her Diploma in Fashion in Bangkok and attended multiple short courses to master all the necessary knowledge and skills.
With passion, you won’t be calculative of your time or money spent, because you do it for the passion.
Recently, she registered with CAFD (Council
The shifting of market trend
With the emerging of e-commerce, Dato Asfarena knew the market will change subsequently. “I studied the market and decided to start my own e-commerce named Secret Modest that is deemed to be officially launched between March and April by utilising manpower from B40 group.”
Award and recognition
Throughout eight years running the business, Dato Asfarena has won several awards and recognition mostly from the government sector. She has positioned herself as the preeminent expert in the tailoring industry. Along with the awards and recognition, she has successfully made two Malaysia Book of Records. In 2016, her institute created the biggest hibiscus made from 22 kilograms of beads and in August 2018, they created the largest number of crafts made of jeans that marked as their major milestones.
Talking about her future plans for AFDI, she is in the midst of creating a TV Youtube channel to empower women in sharing tips and knowledge. Currently, she has successfully created mini tailoring factories in suburban areas in order to supply more job opportunities for unfortunate women. “Previously, consumers tend to use services provided by foreigners as in Bangladeshi when it comes to tailoring. So with the existence of the mini factory, we will try to cater back all the demands and give more exposure and opportunities for the locals,” she ended.