In the early days of 2011 where blogshops was the preferred online shopping platform, two students who were studying overseas saw an opportunity.
“Back when Vivien and I were studying abroad, many if not most high street brands were unavailable in Malaysia locally,” said Alan Thum, an Interactive Arts and Technology graduate.
“Seeing that there was a gap in the market, we started Pink N’ Proper abroad and stepped into the world of entrepreneurship. Vivien always had a passion for fashion and I was always very interested in running a business, so it was a very natural move for the both of us.”
Alan and Vivien started out by catering to trendy female high-street brands in Europe such as Rare London, Coco’s Fortune, Vero Moda, H&M and bringing them to the local market.
They launched Pink N’ Proper’s blogshop in August 2011 with a mission to expose and introduce Malaysians to branded products overseas that were not usually found in local retailers.
“I’m always on the lookout for styles which are unique, fun, urban, and in trend,” Vivien said, who studied pharmacy.
They did quite well for some time, but the market trends did not last long. As more brands they carried started to appear in the local retail market, their sales dropped and they knew it was no longer viable to continue in the same direction.
It was also the era of the rise of social media and massive e-commerce platforms—blogshops in themselves had to find new ways to survive.
Having carried a range of swimwear from the same brands and seeing them perform well, they started researching on the swimwear market in Malaysia and found it lacking fashionable and affordable swimwear.
This is what catalysed their decision to narrow down their focus and cater to women’s swimwear.
However, they knew that selling on their own platform would not be sufficient and approached other sales channels to grow with.
“From there we found out that not all sales channels are suitable for the fashion industry. Some sales channel are more suited for fashion whereas some are not, which was very evident from the sales that we garnered from each of them.”
They knew who they wanted to represent their brand.
Collaborating with several social media influencers to increase their brand awareness, they brought some well-known names on board such as Jenn Chia, Melissa Th’ng, Jazel Lim and Carey Ng.
“The key aspect for the influencers we select is ‘Lifestyle’. Our influencers work hard to portrait their work as a lifestyle choice that their fans can obtain. Again going back to our brand direction not all influencers are in line with this and this makes our selection process even more challenging.”
Their reason for bringing in Malaysian influencers to work with goes back to body issues Asians face.
“Companies have long used Caucasian models with body figures that portray the ‘perfect’ body. Subconsciously this has been embedded into many females’ minds that they need to have that body figure to be able to pull of that look.”
“This manipulative perception is an issue we are currently trying to remedy. Therefore, we only work with Asian models whose main profession is not modelling. By doing so, we are instilling a ‘everybody can pull off this look’ mindset to our customers by relating to them on a personal level.”
With this strategy, they hope to make customers feel good about themselves and induce some confidence in them.
Pink N’ Proper is fully self-funded and started from a small capital from a few thousand ringgit.
Having evolved from an online blogshop to a popular e-commerce platform, they have certainly come a long way as they even have their own working space and showroom where they display all their collections.
“Like many startups, we were not financially stable in the beginning and until I was certain that we can actually afford a space did we decide to move out,” Alan said.
For people who prefer to see and touch their apparel before buying, Pink N’ Proper has showroom is located at Jalan Kuchai Lama where customers can come for a fitting session or even just drop by to have coffee.
They now sell apparel ranging from bikinis to casual beachwear, swimsuits, and have branched out to stock pool accessories.
According to Alan, they sell close to 1,000 swimsuits on a monthly basis, and are looking to explore the Singaporean market and growing their Indonesian efforts as well as they have a counterpart there to handle that market currently.
Having been in the scene these past six years, he shared some advice to aspiring entrepreneurs looking to step in the market as well.
“We are heading into the digital age where people prefer to shop online rather than offline. I’m a very firm believer of the Blue Ocean Strategy and I follow these few simple words of freedom: You either follow current trends or you create new trends.”
“Find a market where you see an opportunity in and come out being the best at it. This is why I always believe in the saying: it is better to be the best at something you do rather than be mediocre at everything else.”