From blogshop to stores

From blogshop to stores

TWO'S COMPANY

Fashionistas, be prepared for an online stampede in a few weeks. Hundreds of women will be poised and ready to do battle online. Those who hit the "Add To Cart" button fast enough will be able to grab a limited-edition 20-piece collection of ready-to-wear clothes, including fit & flare skirts and shift dresses.

Indonesian fashion designer Tex Saverio, whose flamOboyant creations have been worn by singer Lady Gaga and reality TV starlet Kim Kardashian, is one- half of the creative brains behind this collection.

The other half is Love, Bonito, a home-grown online retailer run by Ms Rachel Lim, 28, and Ms Viola Tan, 31. Just like Sweden has H&M and America has Forever 21, Love, Bonito is the local version of fast fashion, catering to 20somethings who want trendy wear without having to break the bank.

Even with Saverio's name on the collection, every piece is under $200. Dresses, shoes and bags in Love, Bonito's catalogue range between $28 and $89.

The former trainee teacher with no formal training but oodles of passion for fashion design heads the design team, which turns out wearable outfits. They look at fit and form themselves, rather than leave it to the manufacturer. "We try on all the clothes we design, and bend, stretch and try reaching for stuff to make sure it's a good fit. We pick materials that are comfortable for the heat in Singapore."

Every four days, the team puts out eight to 12 new designs, which include sexy bodycon dresses, jumpsuits, bags and shoes - all tagged with the motto "Empowering Confidence Through Style".

Ms Tan, also a former teacher who now heads its business development, finance and logistics team, adds: "We don't skimp on fabric or workmanship. Our sell-out launches are a testament to our customers' satisfaction level and faith in us."

It is a mantra that seems to have resonated with young women who fill up their virtual shopping cart with 3,000 to 5,000 packages every week, which are sent around the world.

The company operates out of a 5,500 sq ft space in an industrial building in Kallang Pudding Road, spread out over two floors that include offices, a packaging room and a studio to shoot new looks.

It will soon open brick-and-mortar boutiques in Malaysia and Indonesia.

Ms Lim and Ms Tan have come a long way from teenagers hawking second-hand clothes online from their bedrooms. Back then, there were three of them.

In the early days of the online marketplace in 2006, Ms Tan and her younger sister Velda teamed up with their churchmate Ms Lim to sell their unwanted clothes on SGSellTrade. They posed in their own clothes and put up pictures online. They moved to their own LiveJournal page a month later, setting up BonitoChico, the predecessor to Love, Bonito.

Ms Tan says they learnt how to manage a small business from scratch, which included working the iBanking systems and keeping track of mailing orders.

Selling clothes online was a way for them to earn extra pocket money. Their parents were affected by the 1997 Asian financial crisis and the three girls felt the need to supplement the household income.

Ms Lim's father ran a ship-broking business which took a "big hit" during the recession and later became a taxi driver, while her mother worked two jobs at one point - secretary in the day and bak kwa seller at night to support their three children.

Ms Tan's father stopped working as an insurance agent and turned to driving a taxi, while her mother worked as a bank officer.

Ms Tan, the eldest of three daughters, says: "I got only $15 a week to spend in junior college. I couldn't even go to McDonald's for a meal. We were not desolate, but we had to be more thrifty. If we wanted material things, we had to get it ourselves."

The part-time business venture drew a following and spurred their entrepreneurial spirit. In their first year of business, they usually made about $500 a month, but could get $1,000 in a good month.

Ms Tan says: "The three of us have vastly different styles, so our customers had so much choice and kept asking for more. So we used the money from the first sales to buy clothes from Bangkok and Hong Kong."

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