Audris Quek in The Long Black, the only item she sold on Paradigm Shift Label for the first year of the online shop. All photos courtesy of Audris Quek.

Go into online fashion brand Paradigm Shift Label and you will see clean lines, classic styles and minimalist pieces.

The collection is sparse but tasteful and timeless. This is what label owner Audris Quek envisioned when she created the brand.

There are only a few pieces available at Paradigm Shift Label but each piece comes in various colours. Customers who like the design can get the piece in different colours.

“Fashion trends dictate a lot of women’s identity. A lot of it make women follow blindly without asking themselves if that is how they want to dress.

“I wanted to show how dressing modestly can look modern at the same time. It’s a shift in consumer mindset,” said the 28-year-old.

That is how Audris came to name her fashion business Paradigm Shift Label. But the mindset change for her began long before she started the business four years ago.

An angry teen meets an Almighty God

Audris first attended church when she was about 10, brought by her grandmother. Her parents were not believers.

There, she once had the chance to hear Australian-American evangelist and motivational speaker Nic Vujicic speak.

Audris (right) with her siblings. She started going to church with her grandmother when she was 10 although she understood very little of what she heard.

Audris and her grandmother remain close to this day.

Young Audris was deeply impressed by the man who was born without limbs.

“I encountered the peace of God and remembered thinking, ‘This man is so courageous and there is so much joy in him. What he has, I want it, too.’”

Audris during her secondary school days.

By 13, she was going to church with a friend and had “given my heart to God” at an Easter rally.

“I thought if I became a completely different person, I could get my father’s attention and make him stay.”

But at 18, her parents’ marriage encountered problems.

“Our family was falling apart. I felt God was not listening to my prayers so I should not go to church anymore.”

For three months, Audris stayed away from church.

For three months, angry with her father, she also threw herself into a lifestyle that was clearly self-destructive.

“I was very, very broken. I went drinking, smoking, partying, in an attempt to ruin myself. I was not the party-life kind of person. I wasn’t enjoying myself.

“But I thought that if I changed and became a completely different person, I could get my father’s attention and make him stay.”

Instead, she got invited to another church by a friend.

“I felt the love of God washing over me, telling me, ‘I want you, I want you.’”

“He was doing his Quiet Time and for two weeks, he kept seeing my face. He spent two hours persuading me to go back to church.”

Audris eventually agreed to go but was determined to be unmoved.

God had other plans for her.

“During service, my heart was beating so hard. The Holy Spirit was calling me back home.”

Despite herself, Audris responded to the altar call for those who had strayed away to return to God.

“God taught me repentance. All those parties and doing things which I knew was wrong yet went ahead to do. Yet He wanted me. I felt the love of God washing over me, telling me, ‘I want you, I want you.’”

That encounter marked Audris’ true conversion to the Christian faith and the start of her journey to forgiving her parents.

A call to missions

After graduating from polytechnic, Audris chose to go to Bible school in the United Kingdom instead of starting work.

Audris (first row, sixth from left) at The Bible College of Wales in the United Kingdom.

“I had this vow to God that once I was done with tertiary education, I would go to Bible school. I wanted to give God the best years of my life.”

“Then he said, ‘There is something you need to do there and nobody can do that except you.’”

At Bible school, Audris received confirmation that she had been called to be a missionary.

“I always had a soft spot for the vulnerable – the elderly, migrant workers. But I dare not admit I had a call. At Bible school, one of the lecturers gave me a prophetic word.

“He said, ‘You are not called to manage events but your events management will get you the network to eventually step into what you need to do.’

“He also told me that the country of Nepal was special to me. Then he said, ‘There is something you need to do there and nobody can do that except you.’”

Audris had indeed interned in an events management company. She had also gone on a trip to Nepal as a student and had hoped that she could return to the place to “pray for the sick and cast out demons”.

There was no way her lecturer could have known either of those things on his own.  

And a call to business

Without any idea of how to live out the prophetic word released, Audris got a job in events management after completing three months in Bible school. But within five months, she tendered her resignation, unable to manage a verbally abusive boss.

“I had panic and anxiety attacks for the first time.”

“If this is from You, open the door and I will continue to trust You in this.”

At a loss as to what to do next, she went to Perth to bunk in with a friend in university there and spend time seeking God’s direction. For six days, she prayed and read the Bible but heard nothing. On her last day there, she pleaded with God.

“I told Him, ‘You need to speak to me. I don’t want my parents to think, ‘What is she doing with her life?’ But I don’t want to step into random things. I only want what You have planned for me.’”

That was when she wondered: If there were no limitations in this world and if I could do anything, what would it be? The question prompted her to remember that she had written down her dreams when she was 14.

It was a three-point plan: Start her own business, design her own products and use the money to help the less fortunate.

But was it not too late? She had not studied anything related to the fashion industry.

“’You can dream on,’ I said jokingly to myself. But the Holy Spirit convicted me, ‘Who do you think put that dream in you?’.

“I was surprised. You mean this is a God thing, not a fleshly desire? I told God, ‘If this is from You, open the door and I will continue to trust You in this.’”

Where business meets missions

Still, Audris could not reconcile the direction to go into business with her earlier call to missions. When she returned from Perth, she attended a YWAM missions training conference.

“I had a change of perspective. I learnt that missions is not just one track – knock on doors, climb a mountain. Missions can take many forms – in business, in media, in music.”

“I learnt that missions is not just knocking on doors, climbing a mountain. It can be in business, in media, in music.”

Right after the conference, she got her first open door to her dreams. She was offered a job in fashion by a former supervisor from her internship days. His wife was a local designer in need of someone to do marketing for her business.

“I was just thinking, ‘This is so wild. Just two weeks ago I had asked God to open the door.’”

On the first day of work, God told Audris that He had placed her there to learn the ropes of managing a fashion business. One month into the job, God spoke again.

“It was a weekend and my mind was off work. I was thankful for that and rolling in bed when I heard these two words: Paradigm shift.

“I wondered: Had I been prideful? Was there something I had to learn? Then God told me that that would be the fashion label we would start in the future.”

Over the next nine months, everything Audris saw led her back to Paradigm Shift.

“God said that this is business as missions. This is where the cross-section is.”

She started to notice styles, colours and the way women dressed. When she made online purchases, she thought about the processes behind it. She even sourced for fabric suppliers.

In her research, she learnt more about the fashion industry, and her call to both missions and business started to make sense.

“Nobody talks about the people who make the fashion. I learnt that there was a lot of exploitation behind the scenes. People were overworked and underpaid, in poor working conditions.”

So Audris was certain that if her business kicked off, she would have her designs manufactured in ethical factories.

“That was where God had given me a heart for His people. God had first called me to missions. Then He called me to business. God said that this is business as missions. This is where the cross-section is.”

At the end of nine months, God challenged her to start Paradigm Shift Label.

God’s inspiration   

Audris had little experience and even less money. 

That was the start of her collection – a single black dress inspired by coffee.

She had expected God to ask her to start her business in five years. Instead, the call was to do it immediately.

“God said, ‘You have to start it now when you have nothing so you will know I am the One who started this thing.’”

Audris had nothing but that command.

Sitting at a café one day contemplating the monumental change that was about to take place in her life, she looked up to see the menu on the wall.

“They only showed black and white coffee, no latte, no Americano. The word ‘black’ started to float out in the air on the menu and I had a flash of a very simple design for a black dress. It was long with pockets and the name just came to me – The Long Black.”

That was the start of her collection – a single black dress inspired by coffee.

A glimpse of business as missions

Because of her heart for Nepal and the confirmation of the prophetic word from her lecture in Bible school, she knew that she wanted to work with Nepal. So she began to search for ethical factories there to manufacture her clothes. 

The young Nepalese girl who made friends with Audris.

When she had shortlisted four, she set off to visit them. Her father went along to keep her safe. By then the relationship between father and daughter had been restored and her parents had become Christians.

The 10-day work trip became more like a mission trip. On the first day, while on a walk, Audris made friends with a street vendor. The girl invited them to her home on several occasions.

The young girl was helping her aunt tend her momo (Nepalese dumplings) stall when she met Audris.

Audris and her father got to meet the girl’s family who were mostly Christians. Missionaries had shared the Gospel with them long ago.

Audris helping to prepare a meal at the house of the Nepalese girl.

One aunt in particular stood out for Audris. She had a very bad headache and could not work.

Audris asked to pray for the woman.

Audris with the woman over whom she prayed.

“As I prayed, I saw in the spirit a clamp on her head oppressing her. 

“God was taking me on this kind of adventure because His heart is for His people.”

“My dad and I prayed, and commanded the clamp to release her in Jesus’ name. And I saw the clamp lifted. Immediately, her countenance changed.”

They then brought an uncle to be prayed for as well. He had a hole in his heart.

“As we prayed for his heart, I had a vision of Jesus walking inside that heart. And as He walked in, the whole heart lit up. By faith, I believed that Jesus healed him.”

Audris also realised that the man was not a believer. So she told him that Jesus had healed him and shared the Gospel with him. The man ended up praying to receive Jesus.

“To work for the Lord in this way was very different from working for a normal fashion company. God was taking me on this kind of adventure because His heart is for His people.”

As the Lord leads

To fund the business, Audris embarked on a Kickstarter campaign. Supporters could buy the dress ahead of time and she would use the money to kickstart Paradigm Shift Label.

“God was teaching me to trust Him in business and to do what He says.”

Within 40 days, she collected S$13,000 from 155 people – enough to launch the brand with one design. An old friend from her Bible school days had felt led to set aside a sum of money for her even before she had told him that she wanted to set up a fashion business. He donated 20% of what she needed.

“God’s hand was on every step. I just didn’t know it. People were supportive of the idea because they knew they would be doing good with their purchases, giving people in Nepal a job.”

The first year was a walk of faith as God led Audris to sell only that one dress – The Long Black.

“You can’t have just that one product! But God was teaching me to trust Him in business and to do what He says.”

The Holy Spirit also challenged her to spend no money to market her new business, but to watch God market it for her instead.

So five months after God told her to start Paradigm Shift Label, she launched the business at a pop-up stall. People could look at and feel The Long Black before ordering it online. From there, word about the business spread.  

Pop-up shops are how Audris lets her customers look at and touch the clothes she sells online.

“It didn’t seem sustainable business-wise. It was a miracle we were sustainable in the first year selling just one black dress.”

In the second year, God told her to release two more designs. Not trained in fashion, Audris had to rely on God even in designing her collection.

Audris and her grandmother both dressed in Paradigm Shift Label, demonstrating the timeless fashion the brand promotes.

“The first time I had to draw pants, I felt the Holy Spirit say, ‘You already have what you need.’ So I opened up my own wardrobe and measured my own pants with a very good cut and fit.”

The business broke even in Year 2 and is now pulling in modest profits.

A bigger mission

Beyond giving ethical factories in Nepal business, Audris has another mission – to shift the fashion industry towards slow fashion where everything is made carefully and slowly.

“Fast fashion is exploitative. To be a solution is to be an alternative to that. As a business and a brand, I want to educate the masses on the effects of fast fashion and be a solution to that.”

Audris (centre) with the women who worked on the first production of The Long Black.

The other mission is to inspire others to follow their God-given dreams.

Audris spends plenty of time sharing the story behind Paradigm Shift Label to anyone who asks. She even did an interview with the Ministry of Education. They wanted to use her story to inspire Normal stream students like herself.

“Mine is just one life, willing to surrender to go after God. Imagine what it would look like if more people did it.”


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About the author

Christine Leow

Christine believes there is always a story waiting to be told, which led to a career in MediaCorp News. Her idea of a perfect day involves a big mug of tea, a bigger muffin and a good book.