Southeast Asia’s largest omnichannel womenswear brand, Love, Bonito, announced today (October 27) in a virtual media roundtable the closing of its Series C funding round, in which it raised a total of US$50 million.
The round was led by Primavera Capital Group, a global investment firm whose previous investments include Alibaba, ByteDance, Yum China and Mead Johnson China. Other investors that participated in the round include Adastria and Ondine Capital.
According to the company, the new injection of funds will enable the brand to bolster efforts in existing omnichannel markets and supercharge international expansion in markets that collectively are experiencing triple digits year-on-year (YoY) growth.
These key markets include Hong Kong, Japan, Philippines and the US. Furthermore, the company is exploring categories outside of fashion as part of its plan to create a female ecosystem.
Love Bonito’s key milestones over the years
Formerly called Bonito, Chico, Love, Bonito started out unofficially as a fashion blogshop back in 2005 by Rachel Lim and two other co-founders to sell pre-loved clothes online for “extra pocket money”.
From importing clothes overseas to sell in Singapore, they pivoted to manufacturing their own clothes after realising that ready-to-made clothes didn’t meet their standards.
Love, Bonito officially launched in 2010, and made their foray onto the international stage in 2015 when it participated in SG Fashion Week, in collaboration with Indonesian designer Tex Saverio.
Love, Bonito has since achieved impressive growth, expanding into 10 key markets which include those in Southeast Asia, namely Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, Philippines, Cambodia, and East Asia markets, namely Taiwan, Hong Kong, Japan as well as Australia and the US.
Today, Love, Bonito is the largest direct-to-consumer womenswear brand in Southeast Asia. In the first half of 2021, it has seen a 62 per cent growth year-on-year despite the pandemic, and its international business has also seen strong growth — 50 per cent of its e-commerce revenue comes from overseas customers.
To date, it has also achieved overall growth of over 120 per cent YoY in international markets, and overall growth of 208 per cent for its online sales.
With the latest funding, the brand will double down efforts within markets such as Singapore, Indonesia and Malaysia that have omni-channel presence.
Meanwhile, other markets such as Hong Kong, Japan, Philippines and the US will see an expansion in omni-channels, new business verticals, strengthening of local community engagement and key collaborations, as well as the continuous optimisation of user experiences.
“For our newer international markets, we’re really intending to accelerate our omnichannel expansion. In the next three to five years, we also intend to build local operations and talent. We’re in fact, already hiring right now,” said Dione Song, CEO of Love, Bonito.
Sharing further about omnichannel expansion, Dione said that they will adopt a similar strategy as to what has been done in Singapore — understand the community first, before doubling down with permanent retail store expansions. In key states like California and New York, Love, Bonito intends to start out with pop-up stores first.
Although Covid-19 has impacted the broader retail landscape, thanks to its omnichannel presence, it has allowed them to “diversify and focus on the right platform”. It has doubled down on its e-commerce expansion and has seen strong growth thus far.
The company believes the Asian diaspora communities have extremely high potential, especially in the US, where online revenue growth exceeded 1,200 per cent YoY as of September 2021.
“(At) the back of really strong organic traction that we saw online, it’s given us even more confidence to expand into the market,” she added.
From a purely fashion line to building a “female ecosystem”
Covid-19 has been a difficult period for most businesses. Love, Bonito is no exception, though the pandemic has forced it to innovate and “evolve”.
“(Covid-19) has made us more nimble and come up with more assortment offerings, over the last couple of months and (moving) forward as well. We’ve really tweaked and diversified how we think about assortment by really investing a lot more in basic categories and loungewear, for example, (which) continue to see growing demand as many are still on remote work conditions,” said Dione.
In recent years, Love, Bonito has launched several new categories: kids, loungewear, intimates, and footwear.
In line with the brand’s mission to empower the everyday Asian woman, Love, Bonito said that plans are in place to further increase offerings within the fashion line to include active apparel and accessories.
Their unique product assortment extends across all life stages, and this strategy has helped them build a “very loyal customer base”. According to their findings, 32 per cent of their customers acquired 10 years ago still shop with them today.
The brand is also looking to venture into a content platform (LiBrary), as well as exploration into “new whitespace categories” (LaB) which will include physical, sexual and emotional wellness.
The category and product expansion strategy is informed and driven by data and community feedback garnered from several platforms, including the brand’s soon-to-be-launched artificial intelligence (AI) that delivers personalisation at scale for women globally, through data and machine-learning models.
“We have over 11 years of extremely deep understanding of the Asian female consumer, hence the investment into data science. We are already combining AI with inputs from our retail, customer experience and service teams. Our vision at the end of the day is to create a seamless experience for the Love, Bonito women,” explained Dione.
She added that there is “potential” for them to expand into a subscription programme to cater to the busy working woman and for those who appreciates convenience.
Other existing platforms that contribute to the insights and knowledge gathering include LBCommunity+, Love, Bonito’s loyalty programme that provides customers an all-access community and rewards experience; and LBCreate, Love, Bonito’s social impact programme with the mission to bring women’s issues to the forefront and create actionable steps for the future.
In the next phase of its growth, Love, Bonito aims to shake up the fashion industry by creating a more meaningful impact on its community across all life stages.
The brand is setting its sights on creating a thoughtful and well-rounded female ecosystem, supporting different facets of women’s needs within Asian countries and reaching further into the Asian diaspora communities across the globe.
Business expansion is also still on its roadmap as it looks to further grow its retail footprint beyond its five existing outlets in Singapore.
“In Singapore, we still see a gap in the market. Right now, we do not have a full footprint across all geographies. One part that we’re looking at would be the east of Singapore in the (next) six to 12 months,” shared Dione.
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Featured Image Credit: Love, Bonito