Pat Liew

Group CEO & Founder

BTC Clothier Sdn Bhd

2014

Woman Entrepreneur Of The Year

Pat Liew

Woman Entrepreneur Of The Year

2014

Group CEO & Founder

BTC Clothier Sdn Bhd

ABOUT pat

“About being a leader, the quality that’s most essential according to Pat, is to one commonsensical, that is, to have sound and practical judgment, based on a simgle perception of situations and facts. The ability to communicate is equally important. “Leaders need to sell ideas in the most persuasive and inspiring manner, and they need to motivate and cultivate. Spotting and nurturing talent too is very important.”

At 43 years of age, Pat Liew walked away from a well loved job of 15 years as Merchandising and Fashion Director. It was a turning point in Pat’s life and she was eager to continue in this industry – which she loved. She wanted to make it on her own terms. Her determination to make a fresh start was borne from the outrage at the insensitivity and callousness of her new employers toward her staff and herself.

Resilience is a particular characteristic of Pat’s. “In an odd way, the outrage energised me. But it was a really tough time as there was a lack of capital for what I wanted to do. I needed backers and, fortunately, the Myer family from Australia came on board, and became my main partner.

“My five early Britishlndia staff started work with me immediately, dressed in T-shirts and shorts, in a makeshift office which was a house still in the process of being completed, mortgaged to provide funds for this dream. The work was unending, a continuous series of setting goals and meeting deadlines.”

With her “wonderful team and a crazy architect” they accomplished the impossible. “We opened eight outlets in just four months, across Malaysia and Singapore. We were doing absolutely whatever needed to be done, including painting stores late into the night.”
Pat’s mantra for her tropical clothing brand is simple, effortless elegance, for people in a hurry. To her, serious dressing should be effortless; and it’s about luxury and comfort merging as one. For her design formula, Pat looks to her own dressing needs which translates to designing clothes for men and women, who are not overly serious about fashion, but like to wear clothes that reflect their elegance and sophistication, and yet be able to stand next to the fashionably dressed and hold their own.

“Dressing up should always be easy and fun. It’s always about how I want to dress in a hurry; to feel and look good in clothes that I want to travel in, to work in, to go out in; clothes that are timeless, that I can wear year after year. It has to work at all these levels for me to be satisfied.”

Pat likes natural fibre in her collection. “It has soul, simplicity and integrity.”

Having a new CEO on board since 2011 to take care of the day-to-day running of the company has afforded Pat more time with her design team, a place where she is most at home. She admits to being a “tenacious editor”, and that means sending a design back to the drawing board for as many times as it takes. To Pat, “good editing stimulates, inspires and influences.”

Her work philosophy is uncompromising. “I do not like working with people without passion and commitment. To know better, one needs to struggle deeper – that’s what passion and commitment is about. This is a very emotional business,” she declares, adding, “I love what I do, and I’m as excited about this today as I was 35 years ago.”
With over 300 staff to oversee, designing six different collections, five times a year, Pat finds it both impossibly hectic but absolutely exhilarating at the same time. “Everything has to be done on schedule, to the highest standard, and to the finest detail.” The fashion industry sets a punishing pace but the field holds no more surprises for her. “I’m always prepared. Anything can happen during production and we have to act almost instantly as the fashion industry waits for no one. It’s a challenge that we face all the time.”

Turning a vision into reality needs serious commitment but crucially, as Pat attests, you need to have undivided support from those around you and they were all there for her: a great partner, Yong, with his unquestioning belief, and a whole array of friends kept her focused on her journey, in particular, friends Nancy Yeoh, and the late Yasmin Ahmad who produced the first Britishlndia advertisements which went on to win a clutch of industry awards. “All these incredible, wonderful people, too many to name, kept me going. Their belief in me was both energising and uplifting. It sustained me.”

About being a leader, the quality that’s most essential according to Pat, is to be commonsensical, that is, to have sound and practical judgment, based on a simple perception of situations and facts. The ability to communicate is equally important. “Leaders need to sell ideas in the most persuasive and inspiring manner, and they need to motivate and cultivate. Spotting and nurturing talent too is very important.”

It is plain to see that Pat believes passionately that businesses have a duty to make a stand against any injustice and violation of rights.
“We are scrupulously careful that we conduct ourselves in the most fair, reasonable and ethical way. My natural instinct when we meet with any gross unfairness, is to defend and protect. Britishlndia is seen as a business that upholds a culture of fairness and fair-play is very important to me. We do not bully, but we also will not be brow-beaten.”

To the younger generation who are thinking of starting their own businesses, Pat has a few home truths to relate. “Be humble and have an open mind. Don’t be afraid to work, even starting at the lowest level. In short, you need to have lots of energy and resilience, and commit fully to what you are doing.”

And to those who think they have a particular flair or talent for the designing business, Pat has a reminder. “Talent is important, and you can even become a star overnight, winning an award for example, but it rarely sustains for the longer term. Learning the craft of designing and understanding the way of business takes time, and you must also find someone who’s willing to guide you.”

Today, with new headquarters sitting on 4.5 acres of land and 60,000 sq ft of space, Britishlndia is steadily growing under the stewardship of a new CEO who is also putting in place the requisites for expansion into the international arena. Despite all this, Pat is adamant that it’s not all about building a bigger company. “It’s building a better company with a clear message of good ethics that’s more important.”

If anything, the journey of Britishlndia from it’s inception in 1994 until now has been inspiring, and it’s pace breathtaking. It’s expansion plan is in safe hands and on course with the new CEO. Pat richly deserves her place in the sun.

Share This Story

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Related STORIES

Be Recognised As One Of Asia’s Top Leadership and Sustainability Players