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KajoAsks: Erpha Ahdayani on selling Barbie gowns internationally from her Bintulu home

Erpha Ahdayani Othman, 42, might look like any stay-at-home mother in Bintulu. However, most people would not know that she actually creates gowns for Silkstone Barbie dolls, selling them to customers all over the world.

Unlike the everyday Barbie doll, Silkstone Barbie dolls are collectible items made of harder plastic (called Silkstone) to mimic porcelain, and they are specifically fashion model toys.

So far this mother of two has produced hundreds of gowns for Silkstone Barbie dolls with the largest order received from the United States.

Sewing a small gown is completely different from sewing a human-sized dress. According to Erpha, a difference in one millimetre can make a huge difference. Additionally, the stitching pattern should be correct in order for the quality of the gowns to be maintained.

Recently, KajoMag had the opportunity to ask Erpha few questions about her craft.
Erpha and her barbie doll gowns.
KajoMag: How long have you been sewing? 

Erpha Ahdayani: I started sewing when I was 8. Even back then my early sewing was for dolls. Later, I learned sewing from an aunt and since then I had been sewing for my siblings and my mom. 

Years passed and after I finished my studies in UiTM in 1997, I worked for a while.

When my baby was born in 2004, I decided to take care of my baby boy at home. That was when I picked up my sewing skills again and took orders for making baju kurungs.

After many years, I learned a new hobby, which is smocking and decided to focus on sewing for children. At the same time I kept on sewing Barbie dresses, only this time sewing for doll collectors.

A close-up of one Erpha’s Barbie gowns, which is a sheath dress with a sweetheart neckline in Chinese brocade.
KajoMag: What was the most difficult part of starting your own business? 

Erpha Ahdayani: The most difficult part of starting my own business was when nobody believed in me. For example, when I tried to register my own company, the staff at the business registration office wouldn’t let me, asking me to just quietly sew at home. 

Luckily, my husband and my family believe in what I do. So I am so happy and passionate in what I do best – sewing!  

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KajoMag: How do you balance your business and motherhood? 

Erpha Ahdayani: With self-discipline and punctuality. I never sew in my pyjamas and I will make sure that my kids are bathed and fed before I start work. Plus, my husband and I have our own duties when it comes to cooking and cleaning.

KajoMag: What advice would you give someone who wants to try their hand at sewing or smocking, but think they are not creative enough? 

Erpha Ahdayani: Just continue to learn and find your passion. Be patient and there is no shortcut to become a skilled needle-worker. Remember, practice makes perfect. Always.

One of Erpha’s barbie dresses.
KajoMag: Your items have been sold all over the world. Care to share your most memorable customer feedback you’ve received so far? 

Erpha Ahdayani: I have had quite alot of positive reviews from them, Alhamdulillah. I am so happy when they mentioned the high quality of my workmanship and the material I choose to make each dress. 

All photos are courtesy of Erpha Ahdayani. Check out more of her work on her Etsy’s shop here and follow her on Instagram.

Read more about our KajoAsks stories here.

Patricia Hului
Patricia Hului is a Kayan who wants to live in a world where you can eat whatever you want and not gain weight. She grew up in Bintulu, Sarawak and graduated from the University Malaysia Sabah with a degree in Marine Science. She worked for The Borneo Post SEEDS, which is now defunct. When she's not writing, you can find her in a studio taking belly dance classes, hiking up a hill or browsing through Pinterest. Follow her on Instagram at @patriciahului, Facebook at Patricia Hului at or Twitter at @patriciahului.

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