Love, Bonito's first flagship store in Singapore

Leading the charge at Love, Bonito are (from left) co-founder Viola Tan, chief commercial officer Dione Song, head of product Eugene Liang and co-founder Rachel Lim.
Leading the charge at Love, Bonito are (from left) co-founder Viola Tan, chief commercial officer Dione Song, head of product Eugene Liang and co-founder Rachel Lim.PHOTOS: ASHLEY MAK, ALICIA CHAN FOR THE STRAITS TIMES

Popular e-commerce retailer Love, Bonito is venturing into brick and mortar here.

The home-grown womenswear label is opening its first physical boutique in Singapore at 313@Somerset in October, taking over the 4,603 sq ft space on the second floor previously occupied by American fast-fashion giant Forever 21.

Love, Bonito's co-founder Rachel Lim, 30, describes the move as a "calculated risk" on the back of a successful string of pop-ups over the years.

She says: "A physical store provides a platform for us to enhance our customers' touch point, provides a space for our community to mingle and learn, enables us to interact with our customers face to face and increases our customers' brand loyalty."

The new store will operate like a regular retail outlet, allowing customers to browse, try on items and pay in cash.

Sales staff will be trained to help shoppers with styling and the space will also be used to hold workshops for customers to learn how to dress for their body type, for instance.

Love, Bonito was started seven years ago by Ms Lim, her childhood friend Viola Tan, 33, and a third co-founder, Ms Velda Tan, who left the company in 2013.

A physical store provides a platform for us to enhance our customers' touch point, provides a space for our community to mingle and learn, enables us to interact with our customers face to face and increases our customers' brand loyalty.

LOVE, BONITO CO-FOUNDER RACHEL LIM

It started off as a blogshop selling imported clothes, with the team venturing into designing its own items in 2011.

The first collection was so popular that the website crashed due to high traffic. The brand - which has a physical presence in Malaysia, Indonesia and Cambodia - expects revenue growth of at least 50 per cent this year.

Ms Lim, who oversees design, customer experience and branding, is clear on what she hopes to achieve with the new boutique, saying she wants brand converts more than one-off transactions.

"To us, the store is so much more than just stocking products. We believe that the retail landscape has completely changed today and consumers are looking for a different experience - one that goes well beyond a simple transaction.

"With the store, we want to share more about our vision and translate this ethos via touch points and unique experiences," she says.

The brand's vision, she adds, is to "empower a woman's confidence through helping her dress well and right".

Ms Tan says the company is on an expansion blitz, with plans to expand in South-east Asia through a combination of e-commerce, retail stores and partnerships.

It has also increased the number of employees to about 80, up from 25 four years ago.

When asked if they plan to remain a largely e-commerce fashion business, Ms Lim says: "We see ourselves as a brand. We are platform-agnostic. We are taking the various platforms available today to bring out the best experiences possible for our customers."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 20, 2017, with the headline 'Love, Bonito's first flagship store in Singapore'. Print Edition | Subscribe