Retail in Asia


Love, Bonito’s co-founder Rachel Lim on taking the brand global

At only 19, Rachel Lim co-founded the online fashion platform ‘BonitoChico’ in 2005 in Singapore. The business saw a rebrand in 2010, swapping BonitoChico with a name now widely recognised across Southeast Asia: Love, Bonito.

In little more than a decade, the brand has flourished into a multi-million dollar company and the largest omnichannel womenswear label in Southeast Asia, with 18 brick-and-mortar stores in Singapore, Hong Kong, Cambodia, Indonesia, and Malaysia in addition to a strong direct-to-consumer e-commerce platform.

In 2023, Love, Bonito looks to open its first boutique in the US, boosted by investors such as Primavera Capital Group, Openspace Ventures, and Ondine Capital, to name a few.

Here, Retail in Asia speaks with co-founder Rachel Lim on ‘democratising fashion,’ engaging with customers, and taking Love, Bonito global.

SEE ALSO: Singapore’s Love, Bonito to debut in the US in 2023

RiA: Tell us a bit about how and why you created the brand.

Lim: Love, Bonito started out as a passion project more than a decade ago with my co- founders and has now become a brand we are all proud of. We began selling pre-loved clothes for extra pocket money but soon realised that our customers wanted more and so we started importing apparels from neighbouring countries to sell. However, there was always something not quite right with the apparels we imported, be it the length or size, the way it fits, the quality of fabric, or design details.

So, we decided to take ownership by creating our own collections that primarily catered to Asian women. We looked at many factors ranging from body proportions, skin tones, preferences and climate to perfect the fit and comfort for our apparel.

We also wanted to democratise fashion and make it accessible to the everyday woman, while still bringing value to her.

Today, we are a global brand with international markets contributing to approximately 50 percent of our online revenue. We have an omni-channel presence in three markets, namely Singapore, Malaysia, and Indonesia, and we ship to 20 countries worldwide.

RiA: What brand building initiatives have you found to be most successful or engaging in Asia?

Lim: Our brand mission is to empower the everyday Asian woman through various seasons of her life, in and beyond fashion. Marketing and brand building initiatives are one of the many ways we curate thoughtful and memorable experiences across every touchpoint in the customer journey.

Love, Bonito’s International Women’s Day 2023 campaign. Credit: Love, Bonito

Having said that, International Women’s Day is particularly meaningful to us as a time to honour the progress in women achievements, and celebrate the multi-faceted women we are. In an era where women still face traditional societal expectations, we want to encourage them to celebrate the power of femininity by redefining what being a woman means to us.

Additionally, experiential marketing is also key to fostering heartfelt connections with our community. Last month, we curated our first-ever all-expense paid LBAnni Holiday Experience for 11 lucky winners across the US and APAC region. It was a memorable time meeting in person and hearing firsthand accounts of how these women discovered our brand and tried on their first Love, Bonito piece.

As we journey alongside our community, we will continue being thoughtful across both online and offline touchpoints.

RiA: How do you cultivate a balance between the brand’s online and offline presence?

Lim: Unlike many retailers within our industry, we started out as a digitally-native brand. However, over the years, we realised that while data can tell us what is selling, it is only through the physical interaction with our customer that we get to truly hear their feedback. This is especially more so as a fashion brand, where a customer would prefer to have a touch and feel of the product and try it on before purchase.

We opened our very first physical store at Ion Orchard Singapore in 2017 and since then, we have opened 18 physical retail stores across Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, Cambodia, and Hong Kong.

SEE ALSO: Love, Bonito acquires Singaporean activewear label, Butter

RiA: Love, Bonito is expanding into the US. Can you share more about this move and what else is up next for the brand in Asia Pacific? 

Lim: With our Series C funding raised in 2021, we have been focusing on doubling down efforts in high-growth markets, and one of them is the US. We experienced exponential online revenue  growth and realised that there is a huge underserved Asian diaspora market that we can reach out to.

Since then, we have launched our first Asian Female Founders panel discussion in Oct 2022 as an ongoing effort to build a strong community of AAPI women in business. We have also established partnerships with like-minded key opinion leaders such as Chriselle Lim (Global Ambassador of Love, Bonito), Kelly Mi Li (stars on Netflix’s Bling Empire) and Helen Wu (Co-founder of Asian Boss Girl).

To better cater to the market, we have ramped up on product offerings to cater to all seasons, such as launching our Fall/Winter assortment, and enhanced shipping and return policies for better customer experience.

In 2023, we have exciting expansion plans in Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, and Hong Kong – stay tuned for more.