If you’ve been on Queen’s Road Central recently, you may have noticed a stylish, pink, new clothing store on the ground floor of H Queen’s. (Or perhaps you already knew that popular Singaporean fashion brand Love, Bonito has made its first ever appearance in Hong Kong as a pop-up shop.) Known for its well-fitted, stylish and accessible womenswear, Love, Bonito is a relatable brand made for the ‘everyday woman’ and offers a wide collection including everyday essentials, workwear, maternity clothes, bridesmaids’ dresses and more.
Not surprisingly, the brand is also run by women, and here to launch the pop-up store was one of its co-founders, Rachel Lim. We caught a moment with the lovely lady to discuss what Love, Bonito is all about and how the startup life is treating her.
Name: Rachel Lim
Profession: Co-founder of Love, Bonito
Startup since: 2005 (unofficially as BonitoChico), and officially as Love, Bonito in 2010
Tell us about your business. What do you do?
It’s a business created by real women, for real women. We understand the issues, needs and concerns that women have, and hope to bring women together through fashion. Love, Bonito creates pieces for women going through different journeys: she could be a graduate looking for her first job or a new mum getting her first taste of motherhood. We also understand that women have different body types and shapes, so we create a wide variety of styles and designs to try our best to cater to different women. It’s thoughtful fashion for every woman: our size range accommodates anyone from anywhere between UK sizes 4 to 14.
What’s behind the name Love, Bonito?
Originally we were [a fashion blogshop] called BonitoChico, meaning ‘pretty boy’, because chica (meaning girl) didn’t sound as good. But when we became more serious in the business, we found that the name had already been taken and we changed it to Love, Bonito because it reads like a sign-off — “with love”.
Tell me about your best and worst day at work?
The best days are when I can sit down and brainstorm with the Love, Bonito team. When we brainstorm, during the ideation process and when we get creative is my favourite aspect of the business. As for my worst days, I would say it’s when I have to do back-to-back finance meetings. Finance numbers can be draining.
What do you do when you’re not at work?
To destress from work, I exercise. I don’t have time to go to classes, so I will YouTube some yoga or HIIT workouts. I’ll also spend time with friends and family. I’ll host them at home and eat comfort food with them. And I try to sleep! I usually only have about 5 hours sleep on average.
Outside of fashion, we also host workshops in our event space in Singapore and Malaysia. We have this space to bring women together to discuss all sorts of topics — from how to dress better for your body type to women’s issues and finding mental stability. We want to give women a chance to share, learn and grow together.
Looking back now, what would you have done differently?
There are some lessons I wish I’d learnt earlier. As people, we all have our own gifts that we are meant to hone. I wish I had known that earlier on. If I did, I would not have been comparing myself with others and instead, understood that we are all different, and that it’s OK.
What advice would you give to someone looking to start up in the fashion industry?
Know what you stand for and stay true to it. We are in a very competitive market which is very, very saturated. So you need to have a good, complete brand with its own niche; you need to be very clear about what makes you unique.
What would you be doing if you weren’t doing what you do now?
A talk show host. I dreamed of being one and I still do. I’ve always loved working with people and learning through them. But ultimately, I just want to be in the business of bringing women together, which is what Love, Bonito is all about, so I’m right where I want to be.
As a child, what did you aspire to be?
I wanted to be a teacher. But I gave up school to focus on starting the business!
What has been your biggest hurdle and how did you overcome it?
The biggest challenge has always been the mental battle you have being an entrepreneur. If you can overcome your mind, you can overcome anything. But it can be very lonely. You have such a huge responsibility, which can also be daunting and overwhelming at times, but you have to push through. You have to look at the company as a whole and push the boundaries.
Why is Hong Kong such an important market for Love, Bonito?
We realised early on that we had traction in Hong Kong. So we monitored and tracked the behaviour from data, and here we are. We also noticed that there is a gap in Hong Kong for a brand that women here truly relate to, a brand that thinks and cares about the everyday woman. So we brought that ethos over to Hong Kong.
What are your goals for 2019? And in the near future?
I had a goal at the beginning of the year to read two books a month, so 24 books annually. I’m a bit behind with that. But the year isn’t over yet!
As for the business, we just completed the rebranding, pushed out new product lines and now the Hong Kong pop-up, so our focus is really on that. We’ve had a great response so far and have had to restock already in just a week.
Which books would you recommend to read?
1) Grit by Angela Duckworth [a New York Times bestseller and pioneering psychologist] is a book I’m currently reading.
2) Start with Why by Simon Sinek [who also gave a TED talk about “How Great Leaders Inspire Action”].
How do you define success? Do you consider yourself successful?
Success for me is knowing who you are and your purpose. There is a Ralph Waldo Emerson quote I love — “To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment” — and I really think that understanding your purpose can be very powerful. I used to belittle what I had, compared it with others and questioned it. But when you stay true to who you are and are secure — that’s success. I’m still growing and it’s a journey; I’m very intentional now and working on being the very best version of myself.
The Love, Bonito Hong Kong pop-up is open at H Queen’s until 31 October 2019.