A combination of 3 things inspired Jane Fong to establish her Malaysian beachwear brand, Malibu Beachwear: her love for the island vibes, her love of great fitting beachwear, and her realisation that a majority of the nicer swimwear options on the market “could cost almost a night’s stay at a resort”.
“It’s cliché,” she admitted, “But I just wanted to introduce a label of swimwear that looked good and felt good without needing to be exorbitantly priced. Malibu Beachwear was launched while running an online clothing brand I had previously, which had been going on for almost 9 years at the time, and the response was overwhelmingly positive.”
“Within a year, I decided to switch my focus to Malibu and then it became an independent brand of its own in 2012. Malibu’s collections started with sourced ready-made swimwear pieces in its earlier years, but by 2015, we were in the position to introduce our own in-house designs,” Jane added.
Born From Her Love Of Art And The Creative
She had been passionate about art since young but later lost that passion once she started working. At 19, she began her job as a data entry clerk before switching jobs at 21, becoming a personal assistant to a design firm’s creative director.
That was what brought her creative side back, and with some money that she had put aside, she started her first online boutique that carried niche finds from flea markets around KL and gradually expanded its range of clothing by getting them at wholesale markets.
“I took a huge risk in leaving my steady job to further pursue this passion of mine,” she stated. At the same time, she found her love for going to islands around Malaysia and came across the difficulty of finding reasonably-priced swimwear, which was how Malibu got its start.
Back when Malibu was still importing ready-made pieces from all over Asia (mainly from Thailand), Jane would fly over to Bangkok and hand-carry a truckload back to Malaysia. But she’s always wanted to design her own collection, and she finally managed to do so in 2015, which is one of her proudest achievements. Another one came later in 2017 when Malibu was the main swimwear sponsor for Miss Universe Malaysia.
“As of 2019, we are now a fully-independent label, each collection is solely designed in-house, in Malaysia,” Jane said.
Bringing A Vision Of Design To Life
Jane has one rule she sticks to during the design process, which is to envision pieces that she would personally love to wear to be made into designs. Besides the design, quality is a key factor in making a good piece of swimwear.
Without quality, the designs will not matter because what holds a good structure of the swimwear is its build quality.
Malibu’s pieces are designed to keep in mind the wearer’s comfort and security with side metal boning and full front and back lining to hold up and maintain the structure of the tops without the need for straps.
According to her, getting to this stage was no easy feat. “My first ever attempt at designing my own collection back in 2015 was a complete nightmare. Everything that could have gone wrong, went wrong.”
Designing a collection from scratch is costly and her main challenge was affording the cost of manufacturing bulk orders that required minimum order quantities. To her dismay, after pouring her entire savings into building her first collection, her bulk orders were made wrongly and the manufacturers refused to acknowledge that it was their mistake. It wasn’t until a month later that the manufacturers took responsibility and replaced her orders.
Till today, as the working style and speed of her manufacturers are out of her control, bulk orders for her collection can take a while to be completed. Sometimes it’ll take her 1 year to launch a collection which she said isn’t ideal for good turnover of new designs. Another challenge for her is when she has to give up on certain designs because they cost too much and would result in a compromise of quality if she went through with them, as she wants to maintain Malibu’s price point.
Evolving Malibu’s Collections
Like many other entrepreneurs from various industries have said before, the journey isn’t easy. Not only is it reliant on sufficient financial backing and manpower but Jane states that it also has to be driven by passion and backed by discipline.
When you stop working, the income stops flowing. In today’s era where digital marketing and social media advertising are evolving so fast, and they play a huge role in putting the brand out there, you are but one in a million brands doing the same thing.
She’s grateful for her customers who often engage with Malibu and give feedback on what they’d like to see from the brand as it’s what drives Jane to improve every collection she puts out.
One of her newest featured designs being launched under The Malibu Resort 2019 collection is the Jungle Bird, inspired by a Bali getaway she and her husband had in 2017. “This collection features minimalist, essential designs that are classically functional yet modern in all the right ways,” she said.
While she does want to have her own store in the future, she’s not financially ready for that commitment yet. “Currently, I am still finding my feet in having all-original collections made. I would probably say that focusing on the designs right now is the main thing, and also to provide petite and plus sizes in the near future would be something I want to do next.”
- You can read more about other swimwear brands we’ve written about here.
Featured Image Credit: Malibu Beachwear