BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN
HAVING no prior experience and background in fashion business did not stop Jacqueline Cheong to breathe life back to her mother-in law’s dressmaking legacy.
The co-founder and creative director of Bajoo’ Boutique saw a positive light at the end of the tunnel for the ailing business when she took over in 2012.
“My mother in-law opened the business in 1996. It was more on tailoring and batiks. At that time, the business was focused on doing costumes for PDS school. That’s why she opened it, to have the luxury to make costumes for the school and her own clothes,” said Jackie, adding that they used to have a batik factory in Kelantan.
However, they were unable to sustain the factory then and Bajoo’ no longer sold batik because nobody was there to properly manage the business.
Returning from Australia after pursuing her Masters in Finance, Jackie had a hard time finding work that offered the salary package that matched her academic background.
“I used to work in HSBC before continuing my studies. I came back and they (HSBC) can’t pay me the same amount as what they used to because the economy was not doing good. Then, I thought to wait for government job… I was never really involved in the tailor business and never really came to Bajoo. When my mother in-law told me that she wanted to close down, I asked her why?”
“I told her that she has all the machines and that is a lot of capital. The business was not paying her money and had to pay tailors out of her own pocket. I never really thought of helping her run it because I thought they were doing fine on their own. So, I offered to help her for six months which then became six years,” she added.
Six years after taking over the boutique, Jackie is now one of the local leading fashion designers who has successfully organised a major fashion event in the sultanate. Bajoo’ has become a local fashion label that is not new to Bruneians.
When it comes to trademarks and aesthetic, Jackie moves strongly towards feminine looks and beadworks.
“We are still into beadworks because I see the Bruneian market still appreciates fine beading; they still want to have a little bit of beadwork on their outfit so that it won’t be too casual,” Jackie said.
“Previously, the market was used to be known with all prints. Now, we are slowly moving to plain colours and some prints. A mix and match,” said added.
The boutique focused not only on tailor-made clothes to its clients but also cater to ready-to-wear (RTW) collections.
“I realized I need to make my own RTW because the market is getting impatient. With this fast-moving industry, we have to remember people want to have a last-minute outfit and they can’t possibly plan one week ahead,” Jackie said.
“That is why we have a multi-label store, so that if you can’t find something from me, at least you can find something from other designers,” she added.
The two-year old multi-label flagship outlet allows other local and foreign designers to showcase their collections. Some of the labels include Jovian Mandagie, Afiq M, Khoon Hooi and Syaiful Baharim, among others.
Despite the success, Jackie prefers to be behind the scene and not to be in the limelight. Some may not know that she is the face of Bajoo’ due to her shy and humble nature.
“Honestly, I don’t really feel like putting myself out there. The only time I came out was during JBoxing. Other than that, I will only attend fashion shows where I was invited to show my support,” she said.
“I don’t really do interviews unless you ask for it. A lot of people say that they don’t realise that I am running this until I do JBoxing,” she added.
Talking about the local fashion scene, she said:
“Given the presence of Jovian Mandagie, Khoon Hooi, and Vivy Yusof, it definitely boosts the fashion industry in Brunei. Before we were a bit conservative, we couldn’t pay attention to catwalks. I would say that social media really played a good part in the fashion industry in Brunei.”
Jackie aspires Bajoo’ to penetrate out of the Southeast Asian market in the future and enter the Middle Eastern region.