Pyone Thet Thet Kyaw
💼 Founder and lead designer, Virya Myanmar
🎓 MSc International Development, University of Birmingham (2011)
Pyone Thet Thet Kyaw is a fashion designer and social entrepreneur who is the founder and lead designer at Virya Myanmar, an ethical fashion brand based in Yangon. Pyone’s unique designs make use of traditional fabrics and patterns to create modern clothing, bags, and shoes. Having herself worked in garment factories from a young age, witnessing the exploitative labour conditions faced by young, female, employees, Pyone was inspired to develop an alternative, ethical model of fashion production in Myanmar. Virya Myanmar is a social enterprise which provides work benefits, training opportunities, and safe working conditions for its female employees, who mainly come from underprivileged backgrounds.
Pyone’s background is in international development and, prior to entering the social enterprise sector, she spent five years working as a governance advisor for the UK’s Department of International Development (DFID). She still offers her expertise in this sector as an independent governance consultant.
I was always inspired by Chevening’s incredible network of global leaders and I wanted to be part of it.
What made you apply for a Chevening Award?
Before my postgraduate studies, I was working for a local civil-society organisation, focussing on issues such as elections, conflict, and political dialogue. While working on the ground, at the practical level, I was craving theoretical knowledge to complement my experience. The international development programme at the University of Birmingham offered the perfect opportunity to expand my knowledge and skill set.
What is the most important thing you learned during your experience?
I learned a lot about international development assistance, and how a developing country like Myanmar can use international aid to leverage greater social and economic change. I also got to learn a lot about social inclusion and development, which has been extremely beneficial to me and helped influence my decision to establish a responsible fashion business.
I believe that everywhere you go, it is easier to build credibility as a Chevening Scholar because the programme has a globally-recognised reputation.
What message would you share with the next generation of Chevening Scholars?
Be open! Open yourself up to cultures and to learning – not just in the classroom, but in all your surroundings. Explore the United Kingdom and the rich and vibrant cultures all around you. It is through this exposure that you will come to understand and empathise with others who are different from you.
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