Successful local label Oh Sebenar wants to be more than just a brand, it wants to connect with its ‘community’
EVERYTHING about Oh Sebenar can be summarised in one word - young.
Launched last February the person behind it is Nadine Jasmine, 23, whom many may consider too young to helm a fashion brand. However, don’t let age (of both the brand and founder) fool you into thinking that it’s not a serious contender in the fashion scene.
Since its launch, Oh Sebenar has already made an impact in the industry. It is really popular among those aged between 25 and 35, including local celebrities. Even Nadine is surprised by the response to her brand. She had thought Oh Sebenar would reach this level of popularity in perhaps five years. To have achieved it way ahead of the target she feels is pretty unbelievable.
She did not expect Oh Sebenar to be on par with brands that have been in the industry far longer. Fashion is a tough industry and it is not easy to get people to know and like your brand. Some brands may take years to be recognised and accepted, she says.
Fashion has always been a huge part of Nadine’s life as she used to be a fashion photographer while studying. With six sisters who, like her, love fashion, getting into the industry was natural for her. When she was 18, she created the Nadine Jasmine collection for Hari Raya Aidilfitri. In addition to selling the collection online, she set up a pop-up store at a shopping complex in Bangsar. It was a success but after three years, Nadine decided to discontinue the brand. She wanted to re-brand her clothes into a more comprehensive style.
“I launched the Nadine Jasmine collection as a hobby because I wanted to start something in fashion. It was more of a learning experience and I wanted to re-brand and create a local brand that will have an impact.
“I am more of an entrepreneur than a fashion designer. But I know what I want in terms of design and style. I have a team of designers who can visualise and refine my ideas for the collection.”
Oh Sebenar’s collection is simple but there are distinctive features such as fabric, detailing on the sleeves, placement of buttons, sleeves and slits. The colours are in pastel, natural and earth tones.
“Whatever styles we come up with, the designs are versatile and can be paired with any item. Basically it is my own style which is minimal but at the same time smart and inspiring. Nowadays, women want styles that are versatile with emphasis on less is more.
“Malaysian women’s styles have changed. You can see them in a simple shirt that is layered up or matched with a blazer and pants. They want a little bit of slit in their dress or long skirts with buttons, maybe on the side. Our designs have minimal embellishments and don’t look overdone. I get ideas from various sources, including international brands, social media and Pinterest,” says Nadine, who is now doing a master’s in visual communication at a private college.
Just like other fashion brands, social media has been the tool for Nadine to push her brand forward. However, unlike other brands that position the founder at the forefront, Nadine takes a different approach. She wants people to know more about Oh Sebenar and prefers to remain behind the scenes. That is the reason there are no details about Nadine on the brand’s website. It is described simply as a Kuala Lumpur-based fashion studio which designs seasonal collections for women.
The brand is dedicated to the modern women who believe in trans-seasonal pieces. Oh Sebenar timeless, everyday pieces are easy to layer, making them ideal for mix-and-match. It produces classic garments with a subtly striking aesthetic that showcases a range of soft, textured fabrics.
Anyone who meets the petite Nadine will be taken aback to know that she is Oh Sebenar founder and creative director.
“Once they know the brand, then they will know me. When customers meet me for the first time, they are shocked because they assume the founder would be someone older. Fortunately, age is not an issue with customers as the most important thing is that they like my collection.
“Initially, they also thought that our clothes are for women around my age or younger. But my target market is those above 25, working women who want practical styles for any occasion.”
Nadine limits the brand’s participation in bazaars or pop-up stores as she believes it will make people lose interest in Oh Sebenar.
“There are bazaars and pop-up stores almost every weekend at various venues. We join only on one weekend or at one venue. If you missed us on that date or place, you won’t find us at the next one. I want Oh Sebenar to be exclusive. You won’t see anyone wearing the same design after it has sold out.
“We are a small brand so items in every collection are in limited numbers and we do not restock. We do not want to rush into doing more than we can cope. It is better if we keep to small numbers to make the collection more in demand. If you don’t buy it now, you won’t get it later.”
Although Oh Sebenar has exceeded Nadine’s expectations, it does not mean the work has stopped. Within the next five years, she plans for Oh Sebenar to be more than a fashion brand.
The idea is to engage people and get involved in every aspect of the community whether through fashion, health or social issues. As the first step, she has set up Studio Sebenar, an extension of Oh Sebenar. The studio is a space dedicated to creative ideas and community lifestyles.
“I want Oh Sebenar to be more than a fashion brand because my customers are not just buyers, they are part of my creative community. I realise they enjoy creativity and intellectual discussion just as much as I do, which helps us connect on a deeper level.
“Fashion is a medium to connect and bring together people who share the same ideas.”
And what about the name of the brand? Where did that come from?
“That is usually the first thing people ask me, how Oh Sebenar got its name. I wanted something that is easy to remember and I didn’t want to use my name. Sebenar means “true”, which reflects my approach — staying true to my style and designs. I added the ‘Oh’ to make it sound more fun, catchy and a little bit mysterious too, much like my own plan. Get to know the brand before you know the person.”