Meet Hang Osment-Le, Founder Of All the Wild Roses
Hang Osment-Le is the founder behind All The Wild Roses, an ethically-made bohemian fashion boutique that partners with artisans in Vietnam. Born and raised by refugee parents in Australia, Hang was transformed by her first visited to Vietnam as a young adult. Inspired by the relationships with family that she found, the work ethic that she witnessed, and the lack of opportunity her relatives were oppressed by, she partnered with her cousins and launched a workshop in their uncle’s home. We sat down with Hang to talk about how All The Wild Roses has grown from those humble beginnings to leverage local talent while producing original designs for the global market.
Before any ideas of the business were born, you were a 19-year-old girl visiting your native Vietnam for the very first time. Tell us about that trip. What was it like to connect with relatives and experience that culture first hand? How were you changed?
It was my first ever trip overseas. Having grown up in Australia with parents keen to forget the traumatic past when we fled Vietnam after the war, I really did not know much about my native country, the people or the family we still had there.
So the visit was definitely a culture shock in many ways, discovering the people and lifestyles, the street food stalls, untouched landscapes, architecture, the undeveloped infrastructure and hearing Vietnamese spoken everywhere was totally new as well. Luckily I understood every word! The highlight was definitely meeting my extended family; to know I was connected to so many people through family lines was so amazing as we only had our immediate family in Australia. What struck me most was their amazing spirit and joy despite living in what would be considered basic living conditions compared to what we knew growing up in Australia.
Most of all, I remember realizing that I could have been them and they could have been me. It made me think about how the chance and luck of where you were born can have a big impact on your life both positive and negative. And for the first time I truly felt grateful but also a little guilty to have been so lucky. It still is to this day one of my most life-changing moments. For the first time I really understood that we are all the same no matter where we are born. I felt so inspired to do something to share my good fortune with my extended family and to anyone else that needed some luck and opportunity to improve their lives.
You were clearly inspired by the women you met - some of whom you were related to - who were seamstresses with very little training and opportunity. Tell us how All the Wild Roses came to be. How did you channel that inspiration to launch a social enterprise?
All The Wild Roses was a result of the relationship that my cousins and I continued after my first visit to Vietnam. I quickly realized that they were very talented and had amazing work ethics, but they were being held back by the lack of opportunity in Vietnam. I asked how I could help, and it became obvious that growing opportunities beyond Vietnam and access to global market was the thing that would make the most difference to their lives. So together, without any experience, we worked on creative ways to learn the art of making clothes, creating quality designs and products.
The most inspiring thing about the whole process of creating All The Wild Roses is really seeing the growth in the women we work with, in terms of their work, their relationship with each other, the family dynamic that they share in their workshop and the joy and creativity that they embody. It really made me realize that talent is universal and that opportunity is the key to unleashing it.
So very few international entrepreneurs have a familial connection to the countries in which they operate. How has your intimate relationship with Vietnam influenced your relationship with the talented women who are producing your designs?
I know many people say don’t work with family, but in this case it works for us. As we’re so aligned in our goals, we all want the brand to grow to improve incomes and opportunities for everyone involved. We’re a small team of nine women. My cousin is the head pattern maker and seamstress, her sister is the head pattern cutter, and the rest of the team are made of their close friends. All members of our team are mothers, so it’s truly a family business.
That for me is the best part. They’re part of all the decisions from design, logistics, delivery and pricing for the work. My job is to create designs that win for every one along the journey, to create products that we’re all proud of.
Social entrepreneurship is an adventure. What is your greatest success to date? What is that one moment you won’t ever forget?
Honestly, when I started on this adventure, I did not know about the term “Social Entrepreneurship” it was really as simple as just wanting to pay-it-forward and find a way to help them expand their opportunities.
The greatest success is really that we made it happen at all. At the beginning a lot of people thought we were a little mad, both the women in our production team and myself had no experience in fashion we did not even know where to find fabric. We really took a huge leap of faith and just worked it out as we went along.
The moment I will never forget is when we transformed our uncle’s home into a two-story workshop with pattern making upstairs and sample making and production downstairs. To see our dream come to life in a tangible way was really fulfilling.
We love your tagline “For the dreamers, empowering the makers.” Tell us more about your "Dare to Dream" partnership with Opportunity International Australia. What impact can a customer make when they purchase from All The Wild Roses?
Fundamentally the “Dare to Dream” Project and our partnership with Opportunity International Australia is a way to do more and reach more women around the world. Together we empower them to use their talents to transform their own lives through the power of micro-finance. The organization provides one loan every week to a women in a developing country, so she can start her own business and pursue her dream of making a living. So when customers purchase from us they are actually investing in these amazing women and changing not only her life but also the lives of her children.
It has been said that when you help one woman, she brings at least four others with her. That one action creates an ongoing ripple effect. This is more than a statistic - it happened to me. Having come to Australia as a Vietnamese refugee, the people that helped my mother also helped my three brothers and me. Now our children also benefit. That is truly the transformative power of opportunity - that one action creates a ripple effect that has the potential to impact many others and generations.
If you had one piece of advice for how to leverage creativity for social change, what would it be?
I actually read this amazing quote from Seth Godin when asked “What is a social enterprise” on The Good Trade:
I just love this because it makes you realize that everything we do can be leveraged to make a positive impact and social change. My simple advice is to always start with small steps and that you don’t have to figure it all out straight away. Stay true to your passion even when it is challenging, as it takes time to find the way. We know that there are so many social issues across the world and the only way to contribute to solving them is really to start in the little space that you know or the people that you know need help. That’s how change happens - by a lot of little steps.