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Youn Sone, an opportunity for Burmese women

Youn Sone was born in 2018, in Myanmar, to promote the employment of women and promote traditional Burmese know-how, through sewing. Yvonne Altorfer, co-founder and head of sales in Europe, joined forces with the French association Trendethics, in early 2023, to create Opportunity for Women. Presentation of this new project, led by women, for women, on the occasion of International Women’s Rights Day, March 8, 2023.

2018: creation of Youn Sone

It all started with a wallet. In 2018, Julia Naw, a trainer at the YLDC in Myanmar , came up with the idea of using Longyi , traditional skirts worn by Burmese women and men, to make wallets for sale. Helped in her business by international volunteers, her goal was to use sewing to promote the employment of women while promoting local traditional know-how. The team was commissioned to create covers for the International Congress of Fondacio, in the Philippines, in 2018.

2019: the activity is structured

Having discovered the products during the Congress, Yvonne Altorfer, member of the Board of Fondacio, fell in love with this project and chose to help it get structured. “Following a workshop on sewing, during a training cycle for young leaders of Fondacio in Asia, I decided to help them over the long term ,” she explains. “We created a prototype summer dress. I had committed to buying 50 and reselling them if they arrived, in the right sizes, in spring 2019 in Europe. »

The bet was met, giving birth to an international collaboration . Yvonne and Julia became co-founders of this initiative. A small team left for Myanmar in May 2019 to continue structuring production and finances, as well as helping to create new products. “During this trip, we also forged our first sales partnerships in a very prominent store in Yangon. » Other distribution points have been found. With one objective: to develop sales mainly in Myanmar. Some sales were also made in Europe.

2020: dealing with the pandemic…

“It was starting to become clearer when the Covid arrived… It was a total shutdown. No more tourists, no more local customers. “We had to bounce back. Youn Sone initially developed a mask business in partnership with Trendethics , an association that helps women in Southeast Asia sustain their weaving business. Calls for donations have been launched.

Youn Sone’s production has also diversified with the creation of cushions and tea towels . “I continued to sell wherever I could: door-to-door sales in Europe, at Fondacio events and at a local market in the South of France. »

… 2021: then the coup

In 2021, the junta coup succeeded the Covid. “From now on, once they have completed their training, young people only dream of one thing: to emigrate. Despite this difficult context, Youn Sone continues to grow . “Today, sales are picking up a bit as a few tourists and especially expatriates are starting to return to Myanmar. The teams on site also did a great job of networking and following up with customers. Local sales account for approximately 20% of the overall budget. The remaining 80% comes from sales in Europe.

“Youn Sone is growing, it is becoming more technical,” adds Yvonne Altorfer. “We have to discuss with factories or fabric manufacturers to have the yarn meet European standards. For example, we have an order for 200 cushions for a hotel, which requires more standardized production and professional anti-stain treatment. We therefore need to develop new skills . Another challenge is to work on the traceability of products, made with artisanal fabrics made by hand, in remote villages.

Today, Youn Sone has between three and five employees of Fondacio, a partner of the company, and five to six families who live from regular sewing or weaving orders. That is between ten and twenty families who benefit from this project, directly and indirectly. Youn Sone, still structurally linked to Fondacio in Myanmar, continues to grow today. The activity becomes more professional and diversified. Some products are made for the European market and others specifically for the local market. Distribution and sales are experiencing growing success.

End of 2022: a boutique in Paris

Along with five other brands from the Mekong Connection collective , created by Trendethics, Youn Sone rented a boutique in the 17th arrondissement of Paris for six weeks, from mid-November to the end of 2022. A real bet to invest more than 2000 € in the rental of a point of sale… which paid off! “The experience was conclusive,” emphasizes Yvonne Altorfer. “Youn Sone achieved the second highest turnover in the store. This means that our products appeal to multiple customers. We were also able, through this, to raise awareness of the situation of women in Southeast Asia and in particular in Myanmar. »

This achievement brought Youn Sone even closer to Trendethics. “We have known them from the start,” explains the co-founder. “They have the same vision as us, except that they started with weaving. “They” are Marie Van Haecke and Lucie Tailhades , the project leaders of Trendethics. “We are complementary . Younsone specializes in sewing, while Trendethics is more in weaving. By combining our know-how, our strengths and our skills, we can have better products and reach a wider market in France, even in Europe. »

2023: Opportunity for Women

Yvonne Altorfer has partnered with Trendethics to create Opportunity for Women , in early 2023. The goal: to distribute the products under a single brand. Opportunity for Women will have an associative structure to develop other projects in Southeast Asia and more broadly: “We want to be able to launch, mentor and support women. » A website is currently being created. “We also applied to have an ephemeral boutique in the heart of Paris, near the Hôtel de Ville. »

To date, Opportunity for Women has six fully committed and mostly volunteer women : Marie Van Haecke, Lucie Tailhades, Julia Naw, Yvonne Altorfer, Cécile Villegas and Julia Aldeguer. “We dream of a better world that values everyone’s know-how, natural resources and fights against inequalities. We are convinced that local communities in Southeast Asia, and women in particular, can be actors in sustainable initiatives that create value for the rest of the world. Through their culture, their way of life and their proximity to nature, these minorities can thus provide a response to socio-environmental issues. We want to enable and promote an economic model for an ecological and inclusive transition through sustainable and human activities. »

Want to learn more or take action with Opportunity for Women? Become a member, ambassador or volunteer? Write to them!

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