Baju kurung and kebaya are garments that should be donned during formal and festive occasions, right? Diana Kamalul and Emir Fauzi are intent on convincing everyone otherwise with their brand Bayu Somerset. They have quickly made a name for themselves by selling simple yet stylish textured patterns which are affordable and perfect for every occasion.

Although Bayu Somerset is just stepping into its third year, their numbers are impressive –– last year they sold around 28,000 garments.

Diana (29) and Emir (30) first met in Wales where they both studied Accounting and Finance, albeit in separate universities. Meanwhile, the brand’s name is reminiscent of the days Diana spent lounging in the Somerset district during summertime in England while pursuing her degree.

The married couple never planned to step foot in the fashion field, in fact, their professions were as far removed from the creative industry as possible –– they were bankers. They have since quit their day jobs and built their own empire with stores in Isetan KLCC and other locations, besides having their own online presence.

Diana loved wearing baju kurung Kedah and kebaya to the office, but couldn’t find any that she liked, so she had them custom-tailored instead. The costs of doing so quickly increased before she realised she could create her own brand.

Diana first learned how to sew from her grandmother when she was a little girl. She said, “When we were children, my cousins and I used to spend time together playing traditional games like batu seremban. My arwah wan (grandmother) showed us how to make our own batu sets by sewing little cloth bags that we would fill with rice.”

Despite having their day jobs in banking, they decided to start a clothing business called Lagendas. Emir said, “At first, we were comfortable focusing purely on a brick-and-mortar store until the pandemic hit and like many other businesses we had to close. But we had already invested so much into the business, Diana was pregnant with our first child, and we had stock on hand that we needed to sell off, which was when we decided to go online.”

They then chose to open their own self-hosted website, ran their own photoshoots, and took digital marketing classes. Orders came in bit by bit, but it was slow. Eventually, they realised there was some confusion among their customers as we were using two different names – Lagendas online, and Bayu by Lagendas on Instagram, so in 2021 they rebranded themselves fully to Bayu Somerset.

In 2022 after the lockdowns lifted, they opened their first official Bayu Somerset physical store in Setia City Mall. However, online sales remained important, and they continued to see strong online traffic to their website –– to the point where their servers actually crashed due to high traffic caused by a big campaign. They shared, “This was another lesson – so we upgraded our website the very next day, but also realised we needed alternative solutions, which was when we began exploring e-commerce platforms that eventually led us to open a store on Lazada.”

Their e-commerce journey begins

The two shared that working with one of Southeast Asia’s largest e-commerce giants definitely differs from operating their own online website. Tools such as Lazada University and the Seller Dashboard have helped them to optimise their business operations on the platform and gain exposure along the way.

The couple said, “We recently participated in Lazada’s Raya Fashion Walk in Bukit Bintang, which was an incredibly fun experience! Getting to see so many people wearing Bayu Somerset was wonderful. We would not have been able to organise such a large-scale event in the heart of KL on our own – from having so many media and KOLs in attendance to seeing our brand highlighted on the digital billboards, that was a moment we’ll treasure.”

“The Lazada ‘Crazy Livestreams’ is another example – we’ve reached up to 10,000 views on our platform when we participated in this, which is a milestone we’ve never been able to achieve on our own. We also see a lot of new customers coming in through these initiatives, so Lazada has enabled us to reach a wider segment, and this support is something we really value from our partnership with Lazada.”

By being part of the Lazada seller community, they have also been able to add value to their business. In a recent gathering that they joined, they were able to network with other Lazada sellers, learn about industry trends, and gain new insights into effective selling strategies.

Enrolling in Lazada University

The Bayu Somerset team has grown steadily and there are now 36 employees including the couple. The whole team uses the Lazada University courses to learn everything about e-commerce from A to Z.

Emir said, “It’s a good training ground to hone our knowledge and skills. Recently, some of our employees attended a one-day Lazada University Masterclass, and we saw a direct impact on sales after they implemented some of the strategies they learned from that course. The guides that Lazada shares with us are also very useful – it saves us time and cost from having to create our own business SOPs. These are also updated regularly so our team can keep pace and evolve.”

Patterns more than badminton (iykyk)

A scroll through their website or Instagram page will show you that their designs are fun and fresh. There is something to suit every woman’s personality from ‘Monochrome’ for those who like a simple aesthetic, colourful ‘Tie Dye’ for those who like to stand out from the crowd, and ‘Floral’ for the femine.

Diana shared, “We used to source our fabrics from Jakarta, but we now find that China has a lot more to offer. It’s not only cheaper but in terms of variation there are a lot of different fabrics and patterns for us to choose from.

I’ve also learnt a lot by speaking to our suppliers in China about the various kinds of printing techniques and fabrication. As our business has scaled and we have increased our purchasing quantities, it has become more important than ever to be cost-effective and efficient. We’ve also moved our production line to China from Malaysia for the same reason.”

Emir said that despite the typical misgivings that people have against products that come from China, “Currently, China has more advanced technology that offers better consistency in terms of cut and sizing, so we’re able to offer our customers higher quality products than what we can currently achieve with local production at a faster speed.

However, we do still look to produce some of our collections locally.”

Preparing for the Raya craze

Needless to say, the Raya season is the busiest time of the year for Bayu Somerset. Their gross profits have grown consistently, and they target an 8x increase from the previous year. They are also expanding beyond Malaysian borders to Singapore –– they held a pop-up booth there in December 2022 and have since seen a huge demand and received frequent requests to return.

Because of the high volume involved, they start planning way in advance – at least six months ahead. Diana said, “For example, for this year’s Raya season, I wanted to explore printing our own patterns (rather than use ready-made ones) as it was a service one of our suppliers offered, so sometime around July or August 2022 we began collaborating with local artists – Niaa Som and Bunga dan Bintang – to design our own patterns.”

“We also have illustrators and even some interns on the Bayu Somerset team who are into fashion and design who helped create patterns in-house that we’ve used in the collection. By September 2022, we had already finalised the patterns for Raya.”

For the Raya season this year, they have 8 collections with 138 products for adults and 100 for kids. Their Bunga dan Bintang collection will be out soon as well as an upcoming kids wear line so that mothers and daughters can have matching outfits.

They noticed while carrying out market research that kids' clothing can be expensive –– so they aim to stand out from other market players by emphasising on affordability and high quality.

We predict that the duo will go from strength to strength, and we hope that the trend of wearing traditional outfits every day will become more popular!

Visit Bayu Somerset’s website here or follow them on Facebook or Instagram.