Options: Epitex had a double celebration on July 26 last year when it launched in Malaysia and celebrated its 26th anniversary. What was the impetus behind your decision to open here?
Judy Zhang: Our decision was underpinned by several factors. First, Malaysia’s dynamic and evolving luxury goods market, coupled with its cultural diversity, presents an exciting opportunity for a brand like Epitex [derived from the words “epic textures”]to make a substantial impact, especially as many of these factors align with our primary market in Singapore. We see great potential in the consumer base here, especially among the growing segment of younger, discerning shoppers.
We are known for exceptionally comfortable beddings, silk blankets and bed linens. Personally, I believe our uniqueness lies in our wide material palette. We offer an extensive range of natural fabrics, from Egyptian cotton to Tencel and charcoal bamboo, and designs inspired by diverse cultures from around the world.
Market reports point to millennials and Gen Xers impacting the luxury goods industry today. How are they doing so?
Indeed, they are reshaping the luxury industry in multifaceted ways. They place strong emphasis on values, particularly in terms of sustainability and social responsibility. They are more inclined to support brands that prioritise ethical practices, environmentally friendly materials and transparency in the production process. This compels companies to adopt sustainable practices and show their commitment to responsible production.
These generations are digital natives, and their shopping habits reflect this. They prefer to shop online and actively engage via social media. We need to adapt to this tech-savvy audience and provide immersive experiences, personalised recommendations and interactive content.
Millennials and Gen Xers seek unique and memorable experiences and value the story and craftsmanship behind a product. They also care about diversity and inclusivity, and are pushing for more brands to represent a broad spectrum of voices and backgrounds in their marketing and product offerings. This has given minority business owners like myself a valuable boost in the luxury goods market — a true driving force for success!
Is the Malaysian luxury goods market different from that of other countries?
Yes, the market here has its distinct flavour, contributed by cultural diversity, consumer behaviour and rapid growth. Malaysia’s various ethnicities have their own customs and preferences, and companies need to understand and appreciate the nuances to effectively cater to the diverse demand. Digital engagement is more pronounced here than in some other markets because of the younger consumers driving rapid growth.
Have you seen a major shift in the demand for homeware and bedding over the last decade?
Heightened awareness of health and well-being has prompted people to look for products that promote better sleep and overall wellness, such as temperature-regulating linen that dissipates heat and allows for moisture wicking. Items that cater to various body types and sizes and individual preferences are also on shoppers’ lists. The rise of e-commerce has led consumers online, where they can research, compare what is available and make informed choices.
With the ringgit shrinking, how would you entice Malaysians to think of luxury?
Enticing people to think of luxury, especially in a challenging economic climate, involves a strategic approach that focuses on value experience and aspiration. I believe this can be achieved by emphasising value proposition (luxury items often outlast and outperform their more budget-friendly counterparts) and encouraging people to change their mindset and place quality over quantity.
For example, I always stress that quality sleep is essential for health and productivity, and comfortable bedding can significantly enhance that, making it a worthwhile investment.
We believe luxury is an experience in itself and so create immersive shopping experiences, such as personalised consultations, that allow customers to get to know our products firsthand.
What appeals most to buyers — materials, colours, trends or design?
Discerning consumers often have a multifaceted approach to buying, but several factors are consistently significant. Quality materials and craftsmanship are key: People want well-crafted and durable products that provide lasting comfort and satisfaction, made using natural fibres and sustainable options. They are drawn to designs that reflect their personal style and bedroom aesthetics, and like to incorporate the latest trends in terms of colours, patterns and innovations, adding a sense of modernity to their spaces. Shades that complement a room’s colour scheme and overall décor are important too.
Is music a bedtime routine for you and what’s on your playlist?
I really do enjoy listening to soothing and relaxing music before I sleep, typically from 1am to 7am. A playlist comprising classical and instrumental pieces helps create a calming atmosphere in my bedroom. Music provides a bridge between the demands of running a company and the serenity needed for restful sleep. It allows me to disconnect from work and transition to a peaceful state of mind, crucial for a rejuvenating night’s sleep.
What books are on your bedside now?
I like reading during leisure moments at home and find that mind-improving books are not only a source of personal enrichment but also an opportunity to relax and unwind. However, my schedule is quite demanding, and by the time I go to bed, it’s usually late. I am also a fast sleeper, so that doesn’t help with the reading. Hence, while it is a beloved pastime, I tend to always lean more towards sleep!
If you were spending a day alone at home, what would you have for sheer indulgence?
I would opt for a selection of light snacks like biscuits, salads and a variety of fresh vegetables and fruits, complemented by a soothing cup of tea. I try to stay healthy where I can. With regular meetings throughout the day, quick snacks are convenient.
What are your holiday plans for 2024?
Holidays for me usually come towards the year end, so I have not planned anything yet. Besides, planning vacations can be quite challenging due to the unpredictable nature of the business. But this Chinese New Year, I will be gathering with a small group of warehouse staff in Singapore. It’s important to recognise and appreciate the hard work and dedication of our team, and I want to create a sense of warmth and camaraderie for the few who cannot be with their families. I am also excited about having some quality time with my loved ones once the peak season subsides. It’s a time for reflection, celebration and well-deserved rest to recharge for the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead.
This article first appeared on Jan 22, 2023 in The Edge Malaysia.