This article was originally published in Chinese on Momentum Works’s WeChat platform, translated into English by our team. We have trimmed the translation as the Chinese version required more context. 

When we talk about fashion retail in China, people naturally think about fast fashion brands, and cross border fast fashion apps: Uniqlo, Zara and of course SheIn.

In Singapore, a former fashion blog has taken a 11 yer journey to become an omni-channel fashion retail brand. This week, it has announced a $50 million round funding, led by China’s Primavera Capital.

A few friends in Singapore’s retail scene say that Love, Bonito just got the taste of local young female consumers right. Interestingly, none of them could actually describe how – but it just felt right for them.

For those who are not familiar with the brand, maybe you can get a feeling through the following ad:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2Tv83CkuINI

The investors

Adastria owns dozens of fashion retail brands, which can probably be synergetic towards Love,Bonito’s global expansion.
People in Southeast Asia’s tech sector are probably already familiar with Openspace, and its vocal founder Hian Goh.
Primavera, founded by former Chairman of Greater China at Goldman Sachs Zuliu Hu, has an impressive portfolio:

The team 

Rachel Lim founded the fashion blog with friends Viola Tan and Velda Tan in 2006. In early days, the blog focused on fashion items from Korea and Thailand. Over the years, and with lots of interactions with followers, the team figured out the style as we see today.

When Dione Song, ex-MD of Zalora, joined the team in 2017 as Chief Commercial Officer, Love,Bonito began to tap into the fast growing ecommerce and digital retail in Singapore and beyond. In April this year, Song was appointed CEO of Love,Bonito, a testament of the stakeholders’ recognition of the executive.

Southeast Asia’s fashion brand

A few observations on how Love, Bonito stands out versus many other contenders in Southeast Asia’s fashion space:

  1. A strong local cultural affinity and style to its home market Singapore. That came from years of consumer engagements and iterations. This also gives Love,Bonito a strong brand identity versus all the price incentives offered by fast fashion / ecommerce players.
  2. Community identity. First is the team’s communications with customers about design and creativity; second is the fact that the cultural affinity to the customers reduces the acquisition and retention costs.
  3. Omni channel sales + strong focus on data.

When local goes global 

The strong cultural identify and affinity of Love,Bonito is a key success factor in Singapore and adjacent Southeast Asian capitals. However, when the company goes global, it will encounter issues of localisation.

From what we see now, Love,Bonito is taking quite a measured and cautious approach is expanding. In addition to nearby markets in Southeast Asia, the priorities seem to be those with high consumption power, such as Japan, Saudi Arabia, Korea and the United States.

In the process, the team analyses a lot of data is, and conduct a lot of community/designer engagements, in order to adjust the product mix for the specific market.

Omni channel brand of the future

From the journey of Love,Bonito, we can see the benefits of omni channel for a startup brand to expand. For the consumers, the online and offline touch points bring more trust, and better customer experience.

Online fast fashion brands recognise this as well – that’s the reason why SheIn is setting up pop-up stores in many cities across the world.

Love,Bonito is in a very good position now – much secure than many traffic or influencer driven fast fashion D2C brands. Whether they can succeed to export their core competence in other markets, where consumers have different self-identities and cultural affinities, would be an interesting challenge for the team.

Thanks for reading The Low Down (TLD), the blog by the team at Momentum Works. Got a different perspective or have a burning opinion to share? Let us know at hello@mworks.asia.