Its about time that we add these local brands in our closet and home!
By Jasnitha Nair | August 15, 2017
Over the past couple of years, the local e-commerce scene has definitely been booming. Today, we’ve got everything from an array of local makeup brands (recently there was a wave of local brands coming up with their own matte liquid lipsticks), clothing lines, shoes, handbags, accessories and even home decor! So, in the spirit of our 60th Merdeka celebration, we thought what better way to celebrate the month than with some of the most notable local brands! Which is your favourite?
Jasmine Kho Min-Jee, 38, General Manager, The dUCk Group
It’s not easy to find someone who hasn’t heard of dUCk here in Malaysia — especially when dUCk products are known to sell out within minutes. Case in point, the KL dUCk Scarf which was adorned with 200 Swarovski crystals, sold out within five minutes, even though it was priced at RM800 (compared to the usual RM130 – RM300 price tag for their other scarves). Here we speak to Jasmine, who first met Vivy and the ever-elusive D at a cafe in Bangsar in 2014 – and the rest is history.
“If I had to choose one, it would have to be the KL dUCk, the 2017 planner the Alphabet tote bag and another favourite from the Home & Living range which is yet to be launched!”
MANAGING A FIERCELY-LOVED BRAND
“The toughest thing is the ability to remain somewhat impartial to the harsher comments that we receive. We love our products to bits and do our utmost to ensure it’s the best what we can in all aspects of it. So yes, we do get emotional when we’re told off for doing anything else, but at the same time, we know that customers won’t bother leaving comments if they don’t care or feel connected to the brand.”
“I’d say it was the Ramadhan month of 2016. The brand was growing exponentially and we had to manage the design and construction of a new store in Pavilion KL, a very busy Ramadhan pop-up booth in Bangsar Shopping Center, whilst at the same time also moving the entire team to a new operations location. It absolutely stretched my team thin and it was a very trying period – but we pulled through and we’re definitely stronger and closer because of it.”
BEING THE ONLY HIJAB BRAND IN PAVILION KL
“When we got the contract – it was absolutely surreal. We always knew we wanted a physical store, so when the decision came to make that a reality, there were only two locations we wanted – one being Pavilion KL!”
BEST LESSON LEARNT
“I’ve learnt that when you’re in a highly competitive industry and environment, the smartest way to stay ahead is to act fast and adapt. Both are the things I advocate within and try to impact to my team. Deadlines are something I’m extremely strict with, and changes are so constant that the winners are the ones with best ability to adapt and move on.”
dUCk IN 5 YEARS
“A global brand with stores around the world!”
Nicole Wong, 32, and Stan Chooi 33, Founders of Sometime By Asian Designers
If you browse through Sometime by Asian Designers right now, you’ll realise that almost all of their products are sold out. And that’s how it’s intended to be. Sometime, headed by Nicole and her business partner, Stan, is not your conventional brand. They’re known to produce exclusive, high-quality, designer bags — minus the usual hefty retail markup. Which is why their bags (made in limited quantities to ensure quality) are completely sold out as soon as it’s launched.
Having cut her teeth as the product advisor for luxury brands, Nicole has had the first-hand experience of translating these top brands’ drawings into prototypes — so if anyone really knows what goes into making a handbag, it’s Nicole.
ON SOMETIME BAGS’ AFFORDABLE PRICE TAG
Nicole: “One of the biggest markups in the retail price of luxury bags or accessories would be the hefty advertising cost, rental of physical outlets in major malls and the huge headcount requires to support the whole thing. That can sometimes cost up to 60% to 70% of the retail price.
Which is why at Sometime, we focus on eliminating the conventional and unnecessary markup so that our customers can get what they paid for, at the right quality and price. We do this by ensuring we’re an e-commerce-focused brand so we can stay lean and be single minded when it comes to product development. We don’t have to think about rental, huge headcounts or forking out a huge sum for advertising.”
EXPANDING BEYOND ASIA
Nicole: “We don’t see ourselves expanding beyond Asian designers yet — at least not for the next three years. We started the preposition “by Asian Designers” because it is meaningful. Sure, there are many local designers in the clothing or shoe space, but there are very few established well in the handbag space.
When we think of bags, we automatically think of Prada, Gucci, Hermes and Kate Spade, which are all western brands. So, we started this with the hopes of establishing more footprints of Asian designers in the bag space. I hope that one day when we think of bags, we think of those designed by our local talents and are proud to own one — just like how everyone adores western brands.”
THE DIVERSE DESIGNERS IN MALAYSIA
Nicole: “I absolutely love that we have a pool of very diversified local designers. Every designer I’ve met has her own unique creativity and thinking. Which is why you’ll notice that each of our bag designs are very different from one another. In the future, I’d love to see more and new upcoming local designers!”
CHANGING THE SCENE
Stan: “It was tough to convince our market that our local brand can make bags equally as good as international brands. This is especially tougher when you’re in the bag category where everyone looks up to western brands. It took and still takes a lot of time and perseverance to convince the customers. At Sometime, we even go against the usual four season cycles that most brands adopt. We want to educate the market to appreciate the product for what they are — and that’s why the branding on our bags are very subtle. We hope to educate consumers to focus on the product itself and less on the fluff.”
Keep a lookout for new handbag collaborations here
Adesh Zaini, 35 and Shahfiq Manap, 35, Founders of BentukBentuk
It all begun when Adesh saw a photo of a concrete planter on Pinterest but for the life of her, could not find anyone who sold it here in Malaysia. That sparked an idea — since she loves DIY so much, why not attempt making one on her own? After much fine-tuning, she managed to create a concrete planter of her own and proceeded to share her work on social media — and of course, comments started pouring in and friends actually started asking Adesh and her husband to make one for them too. But believe it or not, the sweet couple actually did do a couple of these concrete planters for free before realising they could be profiting off this!
PASSION OVER MONEY
“In order to allow the brand to really expand based on our passion, we’ve yet to leave our day jobs to avoid putting pressure on the brand to grow in terms of investment. Of course, who doesn’t like to create something to profit off, but I think it really does help to alleviate stress on the business when we have a sustainable income from another source.”
“It has to be the moment we managed to display our products on the shelves of Isetan The Japan Store! That was a mind-blowing experience. When BentukBentuk was handpicked to be a part of The Museum exhibition display on the ground floor of the store, we were over the moon as there are only a handful of Malaysian brands that have ever made it there. It was a humbling experience and we are really proud of that. It gave the boost of confidence that our brand can reach greater heights.”
IN 5 YEARS…
“..We hope that BentukBentuk will be known as an artisan handmade brand made locally in Malaysia. We look up to brands like Royal Selangor and how they’re known for being a go-to choice for anyone who’s looking to bring back or keep a piece of Malaysia with them. This vision came to us when a customer purchased one of our planters as a souvenir for their friend in Europe – the reason being they were proud that the product was made in their home country and they wanted to share that with people from other parts of the world.
Check out BentukBentuk here
Stephanie Ng, 33, Founder of Stephanie Ng Designs
It’s really no surprise that Stephanie was once fired from her job at a glass artist’s studio for showing too much initiative! In just a few short years, Stephanie actually managed to set up a studio, launch her products to the international market and then even go on to win major awards. In fact, just this year, she received another Malaysia Good Design Mark Award for their Luna Lana (created for their knitted lamp range) packaging design.
WHAT IS LUNA LANA
“It’s a brand from Stephanie Ng Designs created for our knitted lamp range. It boasts a fun-filled whimsy feel that injects warmth and colour to interior spaces. They are all individually handcrafted and available in a variety of personalities ranging from Hot-Air Balloon, safari animals and fairy tale characters. Just like most of our designs at Stephanie Ng Design, the Luna Lana range is designed on the basis of quality, interchangeability, low carbon footprint production and so forth. This allows us to enjoy unique and creative spaces without making the planet pay for it.
“We were contracted to showcase a kinetic light art installation at the Malaysian Pavilion at Expo Milan 2015 to represent the best that Malaysia has to offer – on a global stage. The installation was named Dancing Drops and it represented palm oil drops in an amber glass that moved up and down in unison to a Malaysian jazz piece.”
ON THE MALAYSIAN DESIGN SCENE
“I feel that there is still so much potential for growth in the design industry. People are now becoming more conscious about sustainability and more value is given to original designs. It is the designers that have the power to change consumer behaviour – so, ultimately, always support the visions of designers who are trying to build strong communities.
Check out Luna Lana here