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Unlocking Potential Malaysia Fashion Market for International Brands

by | Apr 23, 2024 | Market Entry

It’s not just the way Malaysian consumers are shopping that’s shifting, but how they shop. Fashion trends have evolved beyond formal dresses, blending tradition and functionality. With the rise of fashion eCommerce, there’s been a move from formal wear to ready-to-wear collections. And the ongoing impact of the pandemic means consumers have gravitated towards value-for-money or essential purchases over luxury wear.

So what are the local and global factors driving the Malaysian fashion industry? And what are the emerging and future trends?

Overview Fashion Industry in Malaysia

While the Malaysian fashion industry might not be as big compared to its neighbours, it’s growing and maturing rapidly.

Malaysia is home to a multicultural society with Malays, Chinese, Indians and other races. This cultural makeup means there’s a wide variety of styles in the country. For example, Malays, who practice the religion of Islam, tend to favour modest wear while the Chinese tend to favour East Asian influences from South Korea or Japan.

As a result, the fashion industry in Malaysia has traditionally centred around cultural festivals rather than seasons, compared to Europe, US and Australia. Cultural festivities such as Hari Raya Aidilfitri (Eid), Chinese New Year, Thaipusam, and Deepavali contribute to a demand for traditional wear in Malaysia and the Ramadan period is the peak season for modest fashion purchases.

Another factor that has long influenced fashion is Malaysia’s politics. Over the past decade, the nation has frequently made the headlines with its prohibition or censorship of performances by global pop icons. For example, iconic singer Lady Gaga’s single Born This Way was “censored by Malaysian radio stations” for “offensive” references to homosexuality.1 At the same time, pop singer Ke$ha’s concert in Kuala Lumpur was called off in 2013 for “reasons of religion and culture”.

But a recent change in the country’s political momentum is empowering Malaysian consumers to express themselves in new ways, giving designers the impetus to explore their potential and offer customers what they want.

The last decade has seen the Malaysian fashion industry grow tremendously. New designers are entering the market each season with fresh ideas and, most importantly, a booming ready-to-wear line. These trends are further encouraged by giant online fashion portals such as Zalora and FashionValet.

eCommerce is enabling more local designers to reach consumers in new ways. In a recent analysis by Bain and Facebook, 47% of consumers throughout Southeast Asia reduced their offline purchases, while an astounding 30% increased their online spending in the first half of 2020.3 In addition, a report by research firm vase.ai found that 29% of Malaysians were still buying clothes online between March 2020 to April 2021, and 61% of those aged 24-34 were spending on clothes.4

As a result, Malaysian businesses embraced eCommerce to meet an ever-evolving consumer need. The Malaysia Digital Economy Corporation (MDEC) further drove this (by kickstarting a Micro and SMEs eCommerce Campaign under the PENJANA economic recovery plan to help revive local businesses affected by the pandemic. The initiative also enabled local sellers to sustain operations and enhance productivity while they transitioned to an eCommerce platform.

Malaysia Fashion Trends

Malaysia, with its rich tapestry of cultures, has become a melting pot of diverse fashion influences. From traditional Malay attire to contemporary streetwear, the fashion landscape here is as varied as the country’s cultural heritage. Here’s a closer look at what’s causing Malaysia’s fashion scene to rise above the rest:

1. Modest Fashion

Modesty is no longer synonymous with plain and dull. Malaysian fashion has embraced modesty with a modern twist. Long, flowy dresses, loose-fitting silhouettes, and hijab-friendly outfits have become the embodiment of chic modest fashion.

This trend not only resonates with the local culture but has also caught the attention of international designers and fashionistas.

The long withstanding Malay Traditional Wear such as Omar Ali also has evolved its design style bit by bit, which you can see it through this link: baju kurung moden. The elegancy of Omar Ali has not dulled one bit if you see it from the beginning.

2. Streetwear Revolution

Streetwear culture has taken Malaysia by storm. It’s not just about oversized hoodies and sneakers but a reflection of urban culture and self-expression.

Local streetwear brands like Pestle & Mortar and Kapten Batik have been at the forefront of this trend, combining traditional elements with a contemporary edge.

3. Sustainability in Style

Malaysia’s fashion industry is also making a sustainable shift. As the world becomes more conscious of environmental issues, Malaysian designers are incorporating eco-friendly practices into their creations.

From using recycled materials to ethical production processes, this trend demonstrates a commitment to both style and the planet.

Top International Fashion Brands in Malaysia

Everyone has a favorite brand when it comes to shopping, whether it be a premium or affordable brand. While premium goods are frequently constructed from high-quality materials, their cost far outweighs the materials and effort required to produce them.

The high price of the goods from the luxury brands represents a premium that the affluent segments s are ready to pay to own the label. Here are the 5 international fashion brands available in Malaysia.

1. Chanel

One of the most well-known premium companies in the world, Chanel is infamous for shying away from its apparel and accessories. They remain an international byword for premium or luxury, owing to strong demand across all product lines. Chanel purses are highly fashionable and go with any attire for any occasion. Looking back in time, the most iconic Chanel purses of all time can be used to chart the evolution of Chanel.

2. Dior

Dior is one of Malaysia’s top premium brand choices, owing to its inventiveness in enticing millennials through design and consistency. They highlight how Christian Dior transformed fashion with his New Look, the full-skirted, beautiful outfits for women that catapulted his brand to fame. Their well-known “We should all be feminists” T-shirt and the social media-friendly “J’adior” brand has drawn a lot of Instagram attention for their shoes and handbags. There’s also a wide variety of options for men, from athleisure to classic suits in blue or black virgin wool.

3. Louis Vuitton

We are all aware that Louis Vuitton, commonly known as LV, is a well-known luxury brand that many of us desire. Best recognized for its monogram pattern and specializes in the “art of travel,” which decorates the majority of its products, which include bags, apparel, watches, and jewelry. It is one of the top premium fashion houses in the world, with more than 460 locations across 50 countries, and is also regarded as the most valuable luxury brand in the world.

4. Tiffany & Co.

Tiffany & Co., also known as Tiffany’s, is an American luxury jewelry and specialized retailer. Offers a wide range of accessories such as jewelry, sterling silver, crystal, fragrances, watches, and many more. They are well-known for their premium goods, particularly jewelry made of diamonds and sterling silver.

5. Gucci

Gucci is one of the top desired premium brands in Malaysia. It has also become slang for feeling great, which is how most people feel when they own an item from this Italian brand. They are best recognized for their lavish style and luxury textiles, while yet keeping the foundation of the most iconic Gucci items to this day, such as handbags and belts with the iconic double-G motif. Continues to revolutionize fashion for the 21st century while showcasing the finest Italian craftsmanship and attention to detail.

Brand Expansion Challenge in Malaysia Fashion Market

Expanding a fashion brand into Malaysia’s vibrant market presents both exciting opportunities and unique challenges. With its diverse consumer base, rich cultural heritage, and dynamic fashion landscape, Malaysia offers a fertile ground for brands looking to establish a presence or grow their market share. However, successful expansion requires careful planning, market understanding, and strategic execution. Let’s explore some of the key challenges and opportunities brands may encounter in the process.

1. Cultural Sensitivity and Localization

One of the foremost challenges in expanding into Malaysia’s fashion market is understanding and respecting the country’s diverse cultural nuances. Malaysia is a multicultural society, comprising Malay, Chinese, Indian, and indigenous communities, each with its own customs, traditions, and fashion preferences. Brands must demonstrate cultural sensitivity and adaptability by offering products that resonate with local tastes and values. This may involve incorporating traditional motifs, colors, or design elements into their collections, as well as ensuring that marketing messages are culturally appropriate and inclusive.

2. Competing with Local Players and Other International Brands

The Malaysian fashion market is home to a plethora of local brands and designers, many of whom have established loyal customer bases and strong brand identities. International brands seeking to expand into Malaysia must compete with these local players, who often have a deep understanding of local consumer preferences and market dynamics. To stand out in a crowded marketplace, international brands may need to differentiate themselves by offering unique value propositions, innovative products, or superior quality and customer service.

3. E-commerce Penetration and Digital Marketing

With the rise of e-commerce platforms and digital marketing channels, Malaysian consumers are increasingly turning to online shopping for their fashion needs. Expanding brands must leverage the power of digital technology to reach and engage with their target audience effectively. This may involve investing in user-friendly e-commerce websites, mobile apps, and social media platforms, as well as implementing targeted digital marketing campaigns to drive brand awareness and customer acquisition. However, brands must also be mindful of local regulations and cultural sensitivities regarding online content and advertising.

4. Logistics and Supply Chain Management

Efficient logistics and supply chain management are critical for successful brand expansion in Malaysia. Brands must ensure timely delivery of products to customers across the country, including remote areas and rural communities. This requires establishing robust logistics networks, distribution channels, and warehousing facilities, as well as optimizing inventory management processes to meet fluctuating demand and seasonal trends. Additionally, brands may explore partnerships with local distributors or third-party logistics providers to streamline operations and reduce costs.

5. Price Sensitivity and Value Proposition

Price sensitivity is a key consideration for Malaysian consumers, particularly in a challenging economic environment. Brands must offer competitive pricing strategies that provide value for money while maintaining profit margins. This may involve conducting market research to understand price elasticity and consumer purchasing power, as well as offering promotions, discounts, and loyalty programs to incentivize purchases. Additionally, brands should communicate their value proposition effectively, highlighting unique selling points such as quality, durability, sustainability, or exclusivity to justify price premiums and differentiate themselves from competitors.

Unlock Your Brand Expansion to Malaysia with AsiaCommerce

If you are looking for a reliable partner to expand your brand to Malaysia, AsiaCommerce is a procurement company that provides several services such as comprehensive market research, arranging partnerships in local industry, and creating sales programs based on market research.Our strategy consulting services domain focuses on supporting private sector clients with comprehensive and specialized development regarding the company’s needs and also on the public sector for a broader scope.
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