There’s a new brand in Malaysia that’s hoping to make an impact on the wardrobes of modern, working Southeast Asian women.
It’s called hello ronron, but it’s not your average office wear fashion label—it’s knitwear. Commonly described as a frumpy article of clothing in literary media, it appears that hello ronron is hoping to help turn that perception on its head.
Looking into the brand’s ethos, it’s clear that the team is serious about making quality knitwear. But with Malaysia’s climate being the farthest example from sweater weather, one has to wonder, why knit in particular?
To understand the brand, we first have to get to know its founder.
Taking knit seriously
Angela Chiang studied fashion design and graduated with a Bachelor in Arts degree from Central Saint Martins College of Arts and Design in the UK.
It’s a world-renowned university for arts and design education that has produced various notable alumni like fashion designers Alexander McQueen and Stella McCartney.
There, Angela studied womenswear and textile pattern design, which taught her about working with diverse fabrics and trimmings, screen printing, digital textile printing, and more.
Professionally, she worked for fashion companies in London during her studies before relocating to Taiwan to work for a fashion couture house.
“During my time working at the couture house, the client consulting, designing process, and fitting processes have always been some of my favourite aspects of the work,” Angela recalled fondly.
As she worked, the idea of starting her own fashion company slowly began to take shape.
In a sentiment perhaps most relatable to fashion designers, she explained, “I found myself greatly inspired by the life the customers lead in wearing the piece of design we made, [beyond] just the piece’s aesthetics or functions alone.”
Wanting to have a piece of that to truly call her own, hello ronron was born.
For a bit of trivia, Angela informed us that the word “ronron” is the name they’ve given to the ladies wearing hello ronron, which is someone who’s happy, confident, original, inspiring, and who exudes both grit and grace.
She is you, but she can also represent your friends, sisters, mothers, and daughters.
For seamless silhouettes & styles
Angela went into market research with a strong understanding of customer behaviours already, thanks to her prior experience working in the fashion industry.
She knew what her clients (modern working women) encountered in their day-to-day routine, and how the clothing they wore impacted their lifestyles.
At the same time, she herself faced challenges in finding knitwear of a specific style. Particularly, she was looking for a minimalistic cut that flattered SEA women’s silhouettes, felt comfortable, was made of quality material, easy to care for, and airy enough for warmer weather.
So, with hello ronron, she wanted to tick all those boxes, and tailoring designs that fit modern Southeast Asian women silhouettes just made sense.
To do that, she researched historical fashion and created pieces that bear resemblance to the cut and silhouette designs of kebaya (Malay), qipao/cheongsam (Chinese), áo dài (Vietnamese), and other heritage classics.
Specifically, these pieces create a silhouette that elongates the lower body, visually shortens the upper torso, highlights the waist, and creates a flattering proportion for the neckline to shoulder ratio.
There’s a lot more that hello ronron’s designs want to do too—without showing too much skin or being too body-conforming, it enables the wearer to feel attractive, feminine, and comfortable.
Angela described it as clothing “where the wearer will feel comfortable to transition from work to leisure, [the] meeting room to happy hours, visiting the in-laws to a special dinner for two”.
Enabling this versatility are features like adjustable shoulder straps, necklines, buttonable skirt slits, and more.
Threading the needle
Coming back to the conversation about knitwear not being made for Malaysia’s hot and humid weather, Angela was quick to educate us that there are different knitwear materials made for sunny weather, in fact.
Some examples are cotton knit (breathable and soft), viscose knit (drapey and silky), and linen knit (breezy and lightweight), which can make for versatile, everyday essentials locally.
Angela also experiments with cuts from detailed cable knit to dynamic mouliné knit, including double-layering the neckline to maintain its shape after washes.
hello ronron’s products are all designed in-house by her, and she goes through several sample prototyping with her knitwear manufacturer in Shanghai to refine them into finalised products.
“As a startup, my company does not have an economy of scale at the moment, and all our products are produced in small batches,” Angela shared.
Though committing to producing fully custom-designed products from scratch will no doubt incur a higher cost to the startup, she also assured:
“I believe in investing in R&D to create the pattern cutting tailored to SEA women’s silhouettes, and manufacturing only with good quality material and garment construction—and will continue doing so.”
In Angela’s words, a well-made and well-designed product will stand the test of time, and this is their approach to sustainable fashion as well.
Knit-picky from start to finish
The move from fast fashion to slow fashion is unfortunately very gradual, and tough to popularise as of now.
But more smaller brands are still trying to do their part in changing the status quo, with hello ronron being no exception.
Designing for longevity, hello ronron’s designs are seasonless and also created with a fully-fashioned knitting method to reduce waste.
Did you know: For explanation, fully-fashioned or shaped knitting is a method of production where the front, back, and sleeve pieces are knitted in the right shape directly with the knitting machine. Thus, the cutting process is at a minimum or totally eliminated, but some post-knit cutting can still be necessary.
In hello ronron’s case, this applies to sewing their buttons made of seashells from Japan, hand-tucking their armhole finishing, sewing the garment labels, for example.
Then, trimmings and pockets are knitted separately and sewn together with the rest of the knitted pieces to complete the garment.
According to industry standards, this method is much more efficient, as the conventional cut-and-sew method allows for up to 30% of the original fabric to be wasted as cut-loss.
Making the cut
We saw for ourselves how meticulously-made hello ronron’s pieces are, when the team sent over six designs for variety.
They included the Lynn Top Lavender (RM180), Agnes Top Black (RM200), Hera Skirt Evening (RM300), Sylvie Skirt Rose (RM280), Mila Dress Cloud (RM380), and Angelique Dress Black (RM390).
From these, we were able to study how hello ronron pulls off different cuts and designs.
Though on the thinner side of knitwear that we are used to, each piece felt solidly made in our hands, with no stray threads or poorly-stitched seams.
Trying a few of them on, they were definitely figure-hugging, but still comfortable enough for me to move in (for context, I’m quite petite).
hello ronron carries three sizes as of now: S, M, and L, but Angela reassured that all their knits carry good stretchability, able to stretch up to 10cm.
She also advised, “When you’re in-between sizes, look at the waist measurement first to see which sizes are closest to you.”
In case you’re unsure of the best fit for your size, hello ronron provides clothing measurements for every product, which covers shoulder width, sleeve length, clothing length, skirt slit length, etc.
More inclusive sizes are in the pipeline as well, she shared. For their future collections, Angela would like to do research into production with deadstock material and recycled yarn (made from disposed plastic water bottles) too.