For some, entrepreneurship runs in their blood and this is definitely the case for Goh Ai Phing, founder of clothing brand Florette The Label. “My parents are successful business owners and so is my sister, so I think they expected me to set up something on my own as well at some point in time,” she begins.
Goh has always had an inclination for fashion, so it made sense for her to venture into the clothing industry. “These days, there are so many businesses one can start, but fashion really is my passion. It’s something that relates pretty well to me.”
The idea for Florette The Label came about when she found that affordable and good-quality wrap dresses were hard to come by. Those from brands such as DVF, which has a great selection, often come with exorbitant price tags. “You also sometimes can’t get the right dress — it’s either too low cut or not very flattering,” she points out.
“I think the wrap dress should be universally flattering. It should look good on everyone. When I told my family my idea, they said, ‘Ai Phing, you should definitely go for it’.”
Goh’s background in marketing communications has come in handy in the management of her online business. “My speciality was in helping e-commerce start-ups kick-start their marketing activities. In that sense, I’m fairly familiar with how e-commerce works, how ads are actually run, the digital complaints and how you’re supposed to be managing things.”
Nevertheless, when she first started, the manufacturing and designing of clothes were new to her. “Finding the right tailor was a painful process. There are so many tailors but finding the reliable ones, those who can commit to your timelines, produce the quality you want … it was really a lot of trial and error,” she explains. She now has two tailors whom she can rely on for good-quality workmanship.
Goh starts off by designing the clothing, after which she approaches her tailors or suppliers to source for the right materials. She goes through a few trial pieces before moving on to the next step. “It’s not until the first sample comes out that you can see that, yes, this idea works or it’s an absolute no go. Once we are happy with the prototype, we will go into production, which means making 50 to 100 pieces of each design. We then photograph them and market them online.”
Florette The Label sells patterned dresses, jumpsuits and rompers, all with the wrap element. What makes her designs unique is that they cater for local tastes and sizes. “My first few designs were the staple wrap dress, which I revised with Asian women in mind. They do not like certain features. For example, when I tried on a DVF dress, I found the neckline to be too low. A lot of Asian women are not comfortable with that. I make sure that Florette’s dresses cover the bust well and that they are slightly shorter, to suit Asian women’s bodies,” she says.
Goh has learnt a lot about consumer habits and catering for her clients’ needs. “Last Chinese New Year, we made a cheongsam-inspired wrap dress with a Mandarin collar. That was a hit because it was timely, and we came up with five different prints for the same design. Two of the prints flew off the shelves and we even had to restock them. Two others did eventually sell out, but there was one that did not. It didn’t occur to me until then that you really have to understand what the market wants. Once you hit the right spot, it will sell.”
Even though she feels that e-commerce is the way to go moving forward as the bulk of her sales are made online, she still participates in pop-ups to give her customers the chance to try on and feel her products. Florette The Label is also stocked at Zeg in Tropicana Avenue, and she is currently in discussion with another stockist in Taman Tun Dr Ismail to do the same there.
In the future, Goh hopes to work with more premium materials such as silk and cashmere, and is now working on designing wrap skirts.
The article first appeared on Apr 29, 2019 in The Edge Malaysia.