KUALA LUMPUR, Sept 27 — Started by Joanne Chan this January, P. Bee & Joanne is a homegrown accessories label which caters to men, women, babies and pets.
The range for pets is an extensive one which covers apparel, leashes, collars, bandanna, scarves and hair bows. The label’s moniker is an amalgamation of her own name and her beloved hand-knitted polar bear mascot, P.Bee, that she carries around with her all the time.
Chan picked up knitting and crocheting soft toys when she was diagnosed with a medical condition after turning 18. The young girl found immense comfort in crafting cute toys as she focused on the detailed needlework.
Buoyed by the happy smiles she received from those who acquired her adorable handcrafted toys, she started making clothes for her toys. That sparked her interest in fashion.
“At first I wanted to work in the UN (United Nations) so I studied French and German,” she said. Unfortunately for Chan, UN’s pre-requisite is a minimum of three languages for applicants. Despite being impressed with her language skills, she did not make it to the UN, as they required her to be fluent in Mandarin as well.
Chan then decided to pursue a qualification in Chartered Marketing, as it would help her career at her mother’s hair accessories business.
Out of her own interest, she also studied fashion design. During her studies as a fashion designer in Paris, she also interned for fashion labels such as Elie Saab and Basil Soda. Her internship also included working on the coveted Paris Fashion Week.
When she returned to Malaysia, she was working in the corporate world full-time while she dabbled in designing on a freelance basis. “I would make dresses for friends or anyone who wanted it. Basically, it was more word of mouth,” she said.
In the beginning, she designed evening gowns and wedding gowns. After her friends had babies, they asked for baby accessories and that was when she started knitting and crocheting baby booties which are now available under her own label, P.Bee & Joanne. She started the label after giving up her corporate job of 14 years.
It was through necessity that Chan started to design pet apparel. The dog lover had adopted a toy poodle she named Lilo. Unfortunately, the pet shop she had purchased Lilo from had tricked Chan into thinking it was a teacup poodle. In reality, they had starved the puppy to make it look like a teacup poodle. As the puppy was too skinny and often shivered, the vet advised Chan to dress it up to keep it warm.
“I was looking at pet clothing when I decided to make them on my own,” said Chan. Later when she got her second toy poodle, Coco. Both Lilo and Coco are so used to wearing pet clothes all the time that when they’re not dressed-up, they feel uncomfortable. “Whenever we go out, Lilo wants to be dressed at all times. If I take off her clothes, she will start hiding from people!”
She also designs and makes bow ties and accessories for the dogs. Lilo and Coco are her models and they are so used to it that they even know the word “fitting.” Whenever Chan says “fitting”, they will stand still. The dogs are also used to having their photographs taken and are ready to pose for the camera.
Even though P.Bee & Joanne operates from an online store, you can find their pet apparel and accessories at selected pet stores. Other products in her label’s range include hair pins for young girls, scrunchies for women, bowties for men and more.
Chan also makes unisex paracord bracelets. “The paracord are high-quality ones which are the same ones that the US military uses. As for the hardware of our accessories, we get them from premium factories that also make zippers and hardware for luxury brands like Louis Vuitton,” said Chan.
Due to the higher volume compared to when she first started, some of the sewing is outsourced to experienced seamstresses. “I would make the prototype and design then send it to them. Some of the accessories I make myself.
For the dog apparel, we use baby-safe fabric that is sourced from the US, Europe and Japan,” said Chan.
When the company expands, Chan would consider getting a production team. For now, she runs P.Bee & Joanne with the help of her boyfriend Kelvin Lee who assists in photography, marketing and website design among other things. P.Bee & Joanne also gets orders from abroad and the website’s currency is set to US$. For Malaysian shoppers, they can get in touch with Chan to buy in ringgit.
When Chan first started making pet apparel, she had to do a sizing experiment where she measured different dogs, from small, medium to large. “I would measure my friends’ dogs to find out the different types of measurements,” said Chan. Eventually, she came up with a sizing chart with the measurements to cater to all types of dogs. During that experiment, she made pet apparel for her friends’ dogs for free.
Similar to the fashion world, there’s collections for dog apparel, which are based on seasons. P.Bee & Joanne have also been invited to be part of the Malaysian Fashion Week 2015 in MATRADE Exhibition and Convention Centre.
The event, which will take place later in November, will showcase P.Bee & Joanne’s Spring / Summer 2016 line.
They are the only pet apparel label to be featured at the fashion show. As it would be hard to get the dogs to model her designs, they will use mannequins instead.
“I also do custom designs for my customers,” said Chan who will discuss what type of clothes they want for their dogs. Depending on the breed and size, Chan will measure and suggest designs and material that is suitable for the dog.
Although P.Bee & Joanne makes collars, bowties and clothing for dogs, Chan doesn’t plan to make shoes for dogs anytime soon because it is hard to design for dog paws and she has not gone into that yet.
Find out more about P.Bee & Joanne at http://www.pbeeandjoanne.com.
You can also email [email protected] for enquiries.