Niko and Clare makes stylish matching clothes for mothers and their little ones

The founders are also looking for partners who can accommodate their sustainability goal of producing clothes in small quantities.

Keeping in mind that the brand caters for both mothers and children, their priority is to consider if kids would wear their creations (All photos: Niko and Clare)

Back in 2014, Charis Ow — who was making videos on Instagram and YouTube as a singer and influencer — was hired to manage content creation by the digital agency Niniek Sugiarti was working in. “I approached Ow to use her expertise for a client. We worked together for a bit and became friends,” says Niniek.

During the pandemic, the duo toyed with the idea of starting something together. “I asked Niniek, ‘What’s your problem when it comes to fashion?’ She said she found it hard to look for matching clothes for herself and her daughter,” Ow shares. 

After research done in Malaysia and Indonesia — where Niniek is from — they noticed a gap in the market that they could fill. “There are a lot of parents-children brands in Indonesia, [offering clothes] which are tailor-made rather than mass-produced. We see some here, but there are not a lot of players yet,” Niniek says.

Combining Niniek’s goal to advance mother and children clothing in Malaysia with Ow’s love for fashion, the partners registered Niko and Clare at the end of 2020 and launched its first collection early last year. 

Ow was five years old when she discovered her passion for fashion. “I would cut my Barbie dolls’ clothes. Although mum would be furious because those dolls were expensive, I would make the long sleeves short, shorten the skirt, add a bow or ribbon, things like that. I have always loved fashion,” she says.

For Niko and Clare, form and function are the foundation of design and both founders play their part in creating the garments. Keeping in mind that the brand caters for both mothers and children, their priority is to consider if kids would wear their creations. 


Ow and Niniek: "We want to focus on celebratory moments between mother and children."

“We test our products on my child to see if the material is itchy or the cutting is uncomfortable. For example, [one of the first pieces we created], we thought would look good on kids. But when I tested it on my child, she felt uncomfortable wearing it. So we knew we couldn’t proceed with it. I’m sure there are other kids who would react the same way,” says Niniek.

Inspiration is often drawn from photos they see on Instagram and Pinterest. In the beginning, Ow and Niniek tried to sketch their own designs but it was a hassle because ideas somehow got lost in translation, especially when they tried communicating to manufacturers.

“After sampling the first collection, we realised that what we imagined in our head could not be translated into drawing because we have no background in fashion. The measurements, technical drawing and fashion engineering — we don’t have that kind of knowledge,” says Ow. For the latest collections, they worked together with designers to help them bring their designs to life. 

New to the industry, the duo has yet to explore the whole schmear of the fashion business, whether it is design, fabrics, suppliers or manufacturers. “We are still in the early learning stage. We have been playing around with a lot of different materials. We don’t want to limit ourselves to one particular fabric. For kids, we look for materials that are soft and thin. As for mothers, it is more about design than fabric,” says Niniek.

Pre-pandemic, a lot of clothing brands went to China to check out factories, seeking quality and standard. “We didn’t have that luxury,” the partners note. “We were given some recommendations by friends. The first collection we did was purely based on word of mouth. Someone has used a supplier before and it turned out well, so we went with that.”

Ow and Niniek are still looking for partners who can accommodate their sustainability goal of producing clothes in small quantities. “We don’t want to overproduce but right now, we don’t have a choice because we are dealing with manufacturers in China and their minimum order quantity is very high, at least 150 pieces per colour. That is a lot for a small brand like us,” Niniek divulges.


Form and function are the foundation of design and Niko and Clare’s garments use soft and thin fabrics to ensure comfort

Affordability is one of the challenges they face. Running a business online, it is especially difficult to convince customers about quality as everything is solely based on words and photos. “We want to try selling at bazaars so people can feel the material and try on the clothes. Hopefully, they will understand why we tag our products at a certain price.”

Ow does content creation, styling and mood boards for shoots, whereas Niniek handles administrative work and marketing. When it comes to misunderstandings, both are both quick to work things out. “Our communication has been very open. We always find common ground and see how we can work around an issue. As long as we understand each other, I hope we can stay away from conflict,” says Niniek. 

They have learnt that it is important to carefully map things out and not rush into making decisions, including their plans for the future.

“We want to focus on celebratory moments between mother and children by offering not just fashion, but also lifestyle products and services. We are still researching the gap which we can put our name on. But this is definitely something we want to do,” says Niniek.

In naming their label, the founders looked at their own initials, N and C. “Niko means ‘victory of the people’ in Greek, while Clare means ‘bright or clear’ in Latin. In a way, we are manifesting our victory. Clare, it gives the connotation of purity and innocence to reflect the children’s side,” Ow explains.

This article first appeared on May 23, 2022 in The Edge Malaysia.


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