Supplying office equipment and cables has been her bread and butter, but Siti Nur Hafidah Hj Kula’s (main picture R) real interest has always been to get into fashion.
Towards the end of 2015, Fidah learned that the eclectic designer behind the shabby chic boutique L’Orient – located in Kiulap’s Setia Kenangan II – was looking for a buyer.
The business took up a three-story shop house, with a storefront on the ground, and designing and production studio on its upper floors.
Her partner in the supply business Mark Koh, who knew of Fidah’s growing desire to be involved in developing fashion, told her of the opportunity after hearing it from an acquaintance.
“I believed that this was my best chance,” said Fidah. “I took a gamble, and together with Mark, we bought the business over.”
They revamped the store’s concept to housing purely local items, and shifted from shabby bohemian to modern contemporary in design, while retaining a focus primarily on women’s fashion, with a rack or two for men.
It was quite the bold move – considering buyers were familiar with a different L’Orient and even more so because boutiques housing only locally-made designs are few and far between in Brunei – they normally bank on at least a few established imported brands to pull customers in.
“There isn’t anything wrong (with housing foreign designs). But it wasn’t part of my plan,” said the 29-year-old. “We stuck to what we believed was our vision; a fashion production house where local designers – who don’t have the capital yet to own a storefront, or have access to manufacturing (tailoring) – can have a platform to do both in L’Orient.”
18 months later, and the results have been mixed. But Fidah’s resolution to develop and sell purely local, undoubtedly the harder path, has sown the seeds of opportunity, the results of which she’s slowly starting to see.
“Having the opportunity to sell here at the Tampines Hari Raya Bazaar has given me confidence that our clothing can make it overseas,” said Fidah at her booth yesterday. “Aside from buying off the rack, there was also interest from Singaporeans to also have custom orders.”
Once home, L’Orient is planning to restructure their operations. They’ve decided that current costs to maintain rental for multiple floors in prime commercial area, as a new fledgling new brand that’s looking towards increase production, are best spent elsewhere.
“We are planning to move to Tungku soon,” said Fidah. “We are getting more custom orders from customers as well as orders from new and established local brands, who’ve asked us to manufacture their designs. We’ll continue to have the L’Orient line of clothing, but as we have five tailors, there is still room to increase production.”
L’Orient is currently located at Unit 8, First Floor of Block C, Setia Kenangan II, Kg Kiulap. To learn more visit their website www.alusbn.com, follow @l_orient on Instagram or contact them directly at +6738987619.