Portfolio Company Feature: Love Bonito

Freddie Luchterhand-Dare
April 11, 2023

We're featuring our portfolio company, Love, Bonito, on the Openspace blog today, being a case study of a highly successful womenswear company from Singapore which has achieved notable global recognition. To gain more insight on Love, Bonito's brand story and international expansion & localisation strategies, we've decided to ask CEO Dione Song more about these topics. Dione has played an integral role in Love, Bonito's success, having held the positions of Chief Commercial Officer and Chief Operating Officer prior to her current position as CEO. She has extensive experience with the brand's vision, strategy, culture and growth, which we think many other budding entrepreneurs and companies can learn from.

1. Can you share more about Love, Bonito’s brand story and purpose?

Love, Bonito (previously known as BonitoChico) started out as a livejournal site by three friends in their university years, selling pre-loved clothes as a means to earn extra pocket money. Since our official launch in 2010, we have grown to become Southeast Asia’s leading vertically integrated, omni-channel womenswear brand with a purpose to empower the everyday Asian woman, in and beyond fashion!

We’re committed to journeying with our community through various seasons of life, and have expanded our footprint across key markets in Southeast Asia as well as Hong Kong and the US. In recent years, we have also expanded into the wellness space with the acquisition of cheak and a small stake in Moom Health.

2. How is Love Bonito’s silhouette designed for the everyday Asian woman?

We cater to various moments of a woman’s life through an integrated, multi-category product architecture. Crafted with the Asian fit in mind, we look at many factors ranging from body proportions, skin tones, preferences and climate to perfect the fit and comfort of our apparels. Beyond expanding our range, we also ensure that all our apparels are fitted on real women and not just mannequins, which makes all the difference!

3. What is Love, Bonito’s market expansion strategy like for 2023? What are your plans in the SEA market?

This year, we plan to supercharge our efforts in key international markets such as Hong Kong, the Philippines and the US with a focus on building local teams, harnessing in-market partnerships and launching more experiential pop-ups. We also aim to double down our efforts in omnichannel markets namely Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia, by opening more physical stores this year to expand our geographical reach into untapped towns and cities.

4. How does Love, Bonito localise its products to each market?

We recognise that local markets have different preferences, styles and seasons. As such, we address these local nuances by catering more relevant apparels for each market. For example, customers in different geographical areas would require different sets of products catered to different preferences and needs. Modest markets like Malaysia and Indonesia tend to look for more conservative designs with longer sleeves and a higher neckline while markets like Hong Kong and the United States would require Fall-Winter assortments for the change in seasons.

5. What advice would you give to other local brands that want to scale regionally or global brands that want to localise or regionalise in SEA? What do brands normally get wrong?

It’s key that direct-to-consumer brands focus on mastering the product in the initial stages of expansion so as to avoid waste of resources, added costs, and elimination of economies of scale. Brands should also try to avoid too much diversification early on as this process is often complex and costly.

Instead of localising extensively into one specific market, brands should be getting more mileage for what they’ve developed by evaluating best selling features in current products and finding customers in other cities that have a lot in common with the current customer base.