Chinese label Urban Revivo opens first international outlet here, plans massive expansion

Urban Revivo's Raffles City store is its first international outlet

Urban Revivo vice-president Raymond Ngoh at its Raffles City store, which opened earlier this month and sells clothes and accessories for men and women.
Urban Revivo vice-president Raymond Ngoh at its Raffles City store, which opened earlier this month and sells clothes and accessories for men and women. ST PHOTO: ARIFFIN JAMAR

A popular Chinese fast-fashion label is ready to take on global competitors such as Spanish clothing retailer Zara, British brand Topshop and Swedish label H&M, and it has chosen Singapore as its first stop.

Urban Revivo, founded in 2006, officially opened its first store outside of China in Raffles City earlier this month.

The label, which sells affordable and modern pieces targeted at those aged 15 to 35, has expanded greatly in China over the past two years, opening more than 90 outlets there in the period. It now has more than 150 stores in more than 60 cities there, including Shanghai, Beijing, Guangzhou and Chengdu.

It also sells accessories and children's clothes. A cotton-blend embroidered A-line skirt costs $89.90, an off-shoulder denim top $59.90 and a cotton-blend knitted sports coat $99.90.

Speaking to The Straits Times earlier this month, its vice-president Raymond Ngoh, 61, says Singapore was picked for the label's first international store as it is "a financial centre" and "one of the most reputable free-trade zones in the region".

The company, which decided last year to expand worldwide in tandem with its 10th anniversary, intends to use Singapore as a springboard to other South-east Asian nations such as Malaysia, Thailand and Indonesia.

It also plans to open a flagship store in London in October. More outlets in Europe will follow.

The label's 7,330 sq ft store here, which sells clothes and accessories for men and women, will not be Singapore's largest. A new store, almost twice as big, is slated to open in Orchard Road in the third quarter of the year. It will have a children's section.

Its plans are ambitious - it will open at least 10 more outlets here and 400 stores globally by 2020.

Its growth comes as Chinese designers make inroads into the international fashion scene.

Most recently, Chinese fashion designer Guo Pei famously dressed singer Rihanna in a canary yellow couture gown at the 2015 Met Gala, and designer Ma Ke, who has shown collections at Paris Fashion Week and Paris Haute Couture Week, creates clothes for China's First Lady.

A wave of young, rising fashion designers, including Masha Ma, Zhang Na and Uma Wang, is also putting China on the world map.

And a Reuters report last year said Chinese fashion brands, such as Ms Min and Comme Moi, are the fastest-growing contemporary design labels sold at department store Lane Crawford, which has outlets in China and Hong Kong.

Mr Ngoh hopes Urban Revivo will have a similar appeal. Its formula, he says, of using quality fabrics, good cuts and up-to-date styles inspired by European design, will be replicated in its international catalogue.

Stores are also kept modern, sleek and clean, with minimal yet classic decor. The only change made to the label in Singapore is in its selection of clothing.

"We have studied trends here and found that Singaporeans prefer a more smart-casual look as compared to China," says Mr Ngoh, adding that this means less structured suits and more resort-style midlength skirts and jumpsuits that can be worn in the office and on a date.

Lighter fabrics such as cotton and chiffon have also been favoured for the collection, to take into account Singapore's warmer weather.

Singapore Polytechnic senior retail lecturer Sarah Lim says the brand's style - which is similar to Zara and Swedish label Cos - will appeal to fashion-conscious Singaporeans. The label's constant updates - it will bring in new styles weekly and stock only 12 pieces of each - will also entice shoppers to return as "Singaporean shoppers get bored easily and are always looking for something new".

Ms Lim adds that although the negative connotation some have of the made-in-China label may be a hurdle to overcome, the brand can be successful if it can consistently provide quality.

After all, she says, a brand's country of origin does not guarantee success. She pointed out that labels from places such as the United States - like Gap and Banana Republic - have not done so well here.

So, what of this hurdle? Mr Ngoh says his label does not compromise on quality.

"You won't see running threads on our pieces. We are careful about choosing our fabrics. We ensure the workmanship in our factories is at a standard our customers expect."

While acknowledging that there is a "certain impression out there about the made-in-China standard", he adds: "I do not think that it applies to my brand."

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 26, 2017, with the headline Chinese label Urban Revivo opens first international outlet here, plans massive expansion. Subscribe