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This former banker built her own fashion label at 25 – now runs two outlets in S'pore

When Beatrice Tan graduated from the National University of Singapore with a Business degree, she, like many others, decided to venture into the finance industry. However, after securing a stint at Swiss Bank, she realised that her true passion lies elsewhere.

As such, she decided to leave her role and take up blogging as a full-time pursuit — an endeavour which had been her interest since her school days. At the same time, she also modelled part-time for online blogshops such as Bonito Chico (now known as Love, Bonito).

This stint inspired Beatrice to carve out her own entrepreneurial journey by starting an online fashion label, KLARRA, at just 25 years old.

Today, the brand has expanded its presence into the offline space, with two permanent outlets across Singapore — one located at ION Orchard, and the other at Raffles City.

Clothes that empower women at the workplace

During her time in the corporate world, Beatrice realised that there was a gap for quality, stylish workwear with accessible pricing.

She was motivated to bridge this gap with KLARRA by bringing in quality clothes that “empower women at the workplace through style and comfort”.

Beatrice leveraged her extensive experience in blogging to help kickstart her business, but it was by no means an easy ride especially since she did not hail from a fashion background.

During its initial few years, KLARRA primarily sold externally-sourced clothing. As the brand gradually grew, Beatrice took the strategic decision to assume direct control over its supply chain by spearheading the design and production of the label in 2017.

Within the realms of fashion and retail, establishing a robust supply chain stands as one of the most challenging endeavours. According to Beatrice, factors such as synergy, quality, workmanship, and production scalability need to align harmoniously with the chosen factory (or factories) to create an effective supply chain.

After running the business for a couple of years, Beatrice was determined to bolster her knowledge in the fashion industry further. She took the leap to head to London for three months and take up courses there, ranging from branding to fashion styling at Central Saint Martins and the London College of Fashion.

Expanding into the offline space

While KLARRA started off as a digital native brand, Beatrice chose to pivot its trajectory by expanding its presence into the offline space.

Over the last five years, KLARRA has established several pop-up and permanent stores across the city-state. “One of the most exciting pop-up stores we had was at Marina Bay Sands, which we were invited to open and decided to try for a year,” Beatrice said.

But what made the digital native brand want to establish a physical presence anyway?

“We put a lot of attention to detail in our products, especially the clothing fabrication and their fit, which need to be felt, touched and experienced in person,” explained Beatrice, adding that having a physical store can complement its online business.

The brand’s pivot from online-to-offline turned out to be good call for KLARRA, as evidenced by the enthusiastic reception from the brand’s fans during the launch of its first permanent store in 2018 at Raffles City.

Furthermore, having a tangible space allowed the brand to communicate its identity and core values more effectively to its community, which eventually fostered a stronger bond with them while cultivating a sense of “closeness and mutual understanding”.

The challenges of running both physical and online stores

While establishing an omni-channel presence significantly expanded KLARRA’s reach, effectively managing both its brick-and-mortar and online stores presented the brand with distinct sets of challenges.

In terms of running its physical stores, prioritising exceptional service is of paramount importance. However, operating these physical outlets necessitated Beatrice to address multifaceted factors like workforce management and overhead expenses.

Conversely, on the virtual front where the business cannot directly interact with its customers, building trust is vital — users need to trust the brand enough to feel comfortable buying from its website.

“It seems simple — just shop and click and buy — but it’s a lot of work at the backend to make sure the customer has a good experience,” said Beatrice.

That said, having an omni-channel presence proved to be essential for the brand, especially during times of crisis. When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, Beatrice admitted that the brand experienced a downturn in sales due to the lockdown measures.

KLARRA’s online platform fortunately provided a lifeline for the business. Amidst the pandemic’s upheaval, its website provided an avenue that enabled Beatrice to sustain operations and maintain the brand’s connection with the community it serves.

Adding value to the daily lives of consumers

Over the years, KLARRA has steadily evolved as a brand — it started off as a clothing label, but is now geared towards becoming a fashion and lifestyle brand.

Today, the brand has extended its offerings to include womenswear, childrenswear, shoes, and even lifestyle offerings including home accessories.

In the coming years, Beatrice hopes to expand KLARRA’s range of products beyond its current offerings to include products that can “add value to the daily lives of [consumers]”.

Featured Image Credit: Beatrice Tan/ Klarra

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