KUALA LUMPUR, Feb 7 -- It started out as a hobby. Nurul Syazana Sukiman was making clothes for her niece but soon she was receiving inquiries about the adorable outfits. Whimsigirl is a refreshing take on children’s wear, infused with traditional and cultural elements. Her collection includes a Baju Melayu romper for example and a Baju Kurung top made with modern fabric.
“I started in 2010 working from home. Back then, our clothes were seasonal so we only made them for Hari Raya,” said Syazana, 29. Eventually, she started participating in bazaars in 2012, joining other handcrafters at Urban Bazaar and Hello Deer on a regular basis.
The name Whimsigirl is actually Syazana’s nickname. She didn’t want to name her line of clothes after her own name so she used Whimsigirl. Despite the name, the clothes are not for girls only.
“We try not to associate gender with clothes. Most of our clothes are unisex. Some parents like their girls wearing the Baju Melayu romper and there was one parent who didn’t mind her son wearing the colour purple,” said Syazana.
Interestingly, Syazana taught herself how to sew when she came back from Melbourne after her studies. She did architecture but she had a passion for fashion design, specifically children’s wear. She practised on her niece and eventually after she gave birth to a baby boy in 2011, she also started making clothes for him.
“I guess I found my other calling! I learned through buying sewing books. On my 24th birthday, I bought myself a sewing machine. It’s all just practice. At first I didn’t get the hang of it but I kept trying,” she said.
Syazana’s mother does not sew very often but her grandmother used to make clothes for her mother and aunts. “Maybe that’s how I got the sewing gene,” said Syazana.
At a young age, Syazana loved collecting fabric all over the world but she didn’t know what to do with them. One day, she went shopping for her niece and realised that most of the children’s wear looked dated, especially the Baju Kurung and Baju Melayu that were available.
She then experimented with her collection of fabric and people started taking notice of her work. She did a trial run in 2011 to sell the clothes she made and received positive feedback.
“I use American cotton for the clothes and a lot of people liked and preferred the modern cloth.”
By mid-2012, Whimsigirl had expanded their customer base and eventually, the production of the clothes was outsourced to tailors as sewing is very time consuming. Syazana still designs and sources for the fabric, often buying high quality fabric from all over the world.
More importantly, her close friend Amirah Suraya joined the company as a PR and operations manager and Syazana’s husband also joined Whimsigirl as business started to pick up.
In July 2013, Whimsigirl opened their first physical flagship store in Publika while maintaining the online store and attending bazaars.
For her, comfort is of utmost importance. She experimented with different silhouettes, making sure that the clothes fit well.
“My philosophy for Whimsigirl is to be classic and comfortable. It’s not just something to wear only on special occasions but it’s practical to wear every day,” she said.
Because of the unique designs, most of Whimsigirls’ customers are foreigners, with expats making up 60 per cent of the customers. Whimsigirl also gets a lot of international orders on their online shop.
Whimsigirl caters for newborns up to seven years of age. To get the correct sizing, Syazana did a lot of research, studying body sizes and trying the clothes on toddlers. She got feedback from her customers and eventually Whimsigirl started offering sizes for older children. Previously, she only made clothes for children aged two to four years.
The company started off with only four pieces and eventually, moved up to 40 pieces. Last Raya, Whimsigirl sold a few thousand pieces. Syazana plans to hire her own team of tailors eventually as the business grows. When she first started on her own, she also made baby accessories and blankets but these are no longer available ever since she started outsourcing the tailoring.
There are no plans to have more than one physical store for now. “We want our store to be the flagship store in Malaysia, a concept store where we show our ideas. Whimsigirl is not just about the clothes, we are also selling the lifestyle. That’s why we produce videos from time to time,” explained Syazana.
Whimsigirl has come a long way from when Syazana first started about four years ago.
“I didn’t know where it was going when I first started because I was doing it as a hobby. Nobody took me seriously back then but now, people have started believing in the brand,” said Syazana.
Her architecture background helped her with Whimsigirl because it influences how she designs the clothes. She applies the same principles like concept development in creating the different outfits.
Whimsigirl is priced from RM75 to RM225 and is available at http://www.whimsigirldesign.com/ and you can check out their physical store at Lot 46B, Level G3, Publika - Solaris Dutamas, Jalan Dutamas 1, 50480 Kuala Lumpur.
This story was first published in Crave in the print edition of The Malay Mail on February 6, 2014.