IN GOOD COMPANY, Love, Bonito, and CHARLES & KEITH are three Singapore fashion brands that have been well-received in Singapore and overseas. How did they bring our local designs around the world?
The magic of fitting rooms
As one of the first blog shops in Singapore, Love, Bonito found their own nook in e-commerce before most major brands caught the wave. Beyond Singapore’s shores, their brand has done so well in the region that they were able to set up a fully-localised operation in Malaysia within just a few years, which includes five physical stores. Love, Bonito, who has become one of the most successful fashion startups in Singapore, also has stores Indonesia and Cambodia.
But, why did an online fashion brand choose to venture offline? Despite the trend of brands taking their business online, Love, Bonito believes that physical stores remain very relevant to the fashion industry. Dione Song, Chief Commercial Officer of Love, Bonito, explained that many shoppers still “prefer having the ability to touch, feel, and try [the clothes].” With the opening of their flagship store in 313@Somerset on Orchard Road, Love, Bonito shared that this has also added to their brand awareness among tourists from countries like China and Australia.
Love, Bonito’s flagship store in Singapore
Another apparel brand that first started out as an e-store, IN GOOD COMPANY, also found it important to have physical touch points in brick-and-mortar stores, whether in Singapore or in overseas markets. “It provides a more encompassing brand experience and helps us reach out to whole new local audiences,” shared a representative.
The brand opened its first overseas store to Jakarta in late 2015, and has since expanded to Bangkok and Manila.
IN GOOD COMPANY’s store in The Emporium, Bangkok
CHARLES & KEITH, who also established their first overseas outlet in Indonesia, branched out as early as 1998. From a single store in Singapore to over 550 stores worldwide, they have indeed become a model example of successful expansions overseas. CHARLES & KEITH currently have a retail presence in 35 markets, including Japan, Korea, Taiwan, Hong Kong and the United Arab Emirates, and has opened over 200 stores in China alone — that’s quite a feat!
CHARLES & KEITH outlets in Hong Kong (top) and Japan
With different customer needs and preferences across various countries, how do the brands alter (pun intended) their designs for the different markets?
One size fits all?
While fashion trends are consistent in an increasingly connected world, climate and cultural differences can influence styles and preferences.
For CHARLES & KEITH, they apply a methodical approach to address these preferences. This is done through conducting thorough evaluation and feasibility studies for market sentiments and consumer insights before entering each market, which would eventually allow the brand to better position themselves for the market. CHARLES & KEITH explained that though each market has its own preferences and trends, there are actually best sellers that hold its appeal across the markets!
On the other hand, IN GOOD COMPANY believes that a contemporary brand should make clothes that traverse borders and culture. Therefore, they do not differentiate between the markets in terms of design and merchandising. Rather, their goal is to create timeless wardrobe essentials that suit modern lifestyles, and made to last beyond mere seasonal trends. As a testament to this approach, the brand was named Designer of the Year at the 2016 Singapore Fashion Awards.
IN GOOD COMPANY’s timeless collection
Ironing out the creases
On the topic of overseas growth and expansion, Jaclyn Teo, Managing Director of Sales, IN GOOD COMPANY, explained how such opportunities would present themselves. “In the case of our overseas partners and stores, each of the story principals had seen our store concept in Singapore, and reached out to us to bring our brand to their respective markets.” However, they also shared that they’ve also faced constant challenges, from changing consumer behaviour to international export and import requirements. Their pragmatic solution is to communicate openly with their partners and troubleshoot these issues together.
IN GOOD COMPANY’s store in The Shoppes at Marina Bay Sands, Singapore
Similarly, it was a long way coming for Love, Bonito. In another interview, Rachel Lim, Co-Founder of Love, Bonito, revealed that the brand started as a small passion project when she was just 18 years old. With little experience but a lot of grit, patience and a learning attitude, Rachel and her team managed to grow the fashion brand through word-of-mouth.
Rachel speaking at an in-store styling workshop
Leveraging on their online popularity back then, this gradually led the team to establish their flagship store. “With our first store, we made the decision after a couple of years of testing through pop-ups. That allowed us to better understand the upside, and also very importantly, the required operations and retail best practices when it comes to running a store, which is pretty different from managing an online site,” Song pointed out.
Singapore as the global runway
In all, the three brands credit their success to their solid footing back in Singapore, which led to their eventual growth and expansion. IN GOOD COMPANY explained that “managing our own stores in Singapore has made it easier for us to scale the business to accommodate regional expansion. It gives us a strong foundation in operations, logistics and business acumen to help our partners grow their businesses in their markets.”
IN GOOD COMPANY also shared that though Singapore is a modern, industralised nation, it does not have the fashion production capabilities or textile resources. While this could be a challenge, they do not necessarily see it as a setback; instead, they see it as an “opportunity to be more resourceful in seeking out the right partners, whether in manufacturing, logistics or operation”.
Also using Singapore as its base for business expansion, CHARLES & KEITH’s spokesperson shared that Singapore’s “open economy has enabled homegrown brands to diversify their business and reach a wider pool of global audience. Our positive nation branding also resonates well with potential investors or partners around the world.”
Taking on a more sentimental note, the founders of Love, Bonito ended off by sharing that, “being born and bred in Singapore, we’ve learnt and witnessed how the late Lee Kuan Yew and our forefathers built our nation with a spirit of excellence. This has also inspired us to build Love, Bonito with excellence.”
Thanks for making Singapore a little more fashionable!
About CHARLES & KEITH
CHARLES & KEITH was founded with a vision to empower women around the world to express themselves freely through fashion. Since its establishment in 1996, the brand has expanded its reach beyond brick-and-mortar stores by offering online shopping on its website. Its stylish and trend-focused designs are now available in Asia Pacific, the Middle East, Europe and the United States of America.
About IN GOOD COMPANY
IN GOOD COMPANY is a ready-to-wear brand offering well-designed pieces to build a modern wardrobe of functional looks. The brand, which launched in 2013, offers Womenswear, Menswear and Mini Me (kidswear for 3-8 years).
About Love, Bonito
Love, Bonito, which started out as a passion project in 2010, has grown exponentially over the last
9 years, and is now the largest homegrown fashion brand. Made for real women by real women, their ethos is to “empower women’s confidence by educating them to dress well and right”.
Photos courtesy of CHARLES & KEITH, IN GOOD COMPANY and Love, Bonito.