International Women’s Day is a global day to celebrate women’s achievements and it takes place on March 8 each year.
This year, Star Media Group is marking the whole month of March as “International Women’s Month”.
Star2.com will be paying tribute to women through our WOW-Women Do Wonders campaign and we want you to join us by sending in stories and pictures of the women in your lives.
When it comes to the style industry, there is an abundance of strong and powerful women who influence what we buy, use and wear. Time and time again, it has been proven that women are some of the best innovators in the business.
Here, we take a look at three notable personalities in fashion and beauty – each with her own unique strengths and success story.
Datuk Farah Khan
Founder and president, The Melium Group
Datuk Farah Khan is one of the pioneers in luxury retailing in Malaysia. Her company, The Melium Group, carries some of the most prominent global brands in fashion.
The secret to her success? Probably her canny ability to anticipate trends and roll with the challenges of an ever-changing industry. Fashion comes and goes, but Farah – who is in her 60s – is still a recognised name in Malaysia.
Today, her company manages the distribution of brands such as Tod’s, Emilio Pucci, Givenchy, Stuart Weitzman, MCM, Aigner and Roger Vivier in Malaysia.
Farah has even launched her own eponymous label in 2007 – which is sold all over the world. The Melium Group has also expanded its operations into Indonesia, welcoming two Farah Khan standalone stores at the W Retreat & Spa in Bali and Plaza Indonesia, Jakarta. She also has mixed brand stores including Aseana, M Pavilion and M Resort, and also food and beverage outlets Aseana Cafebar, Dome Cafe, Mama San and Warung.
“I never really went to design school. I was supposed to go to Central Saint Martins when I was 17, but I chose to get married, so here we are. I like to say that I come from the School of Hard Knocks,” Farah once said in an interview with a Singaporean magazine.
As it is, she opened her first store, The Link, along Orchard Road in Singapore straight out of school. She only gave it up when she got married and moved to Malaysia.
In 1987, she opened Le Salon, a multi-brand boutique which carried names like Versace and Alberta Ferretti. She would later go on to rebrand Le Salon into Melium Group.
The daughter of a diamond merchant father and boutique owner mother, Farah is the third of five siblings. According to her, she has been interested in fashion from young.
She picked up tailoring skills from her mum, who used to make high-fashion dresses for women out of her Shanghainese-style store Le Bijou, at the former Promenade mall in Orchard Road, Singapore.
Farah has always said she uses fashion as an expression of herself. In this vein, she loves all aspects of fashion and the thing that makes her most excited is the ability to create.
The Farah Khan label counts celebrities such as Kimora Lee Simmons, Paris Hilton, Ashanti, Yolanda Hadid and Vanessa Hudgens as its clients.
The Melium Group supports many community charities as well. It has reportedly raised over RM15mil through organising or participating in charity auctions and fund-raising events.
Co-founder, Fashion Valet, and Founder, Duckscarves
Young, stylish and smart, Vivy Yusof is a well-known name among the fashion crowd in Malaysia. The social media-savvy entrepreneur has over 920,000 followers on Instagram.
Already a well-known blogger with her site Proudduck, she is co-founder of Fashion Valet, an e-commerce site, and founder of Duckscarves.
Her early fame on the Internet was instrumental in the initial success of Fashion Valet. Since 2010, the business has skyrocketed and amassed an army of fans.
Fashion Valet grew from a business with RM100,000 capital, 10 designers and a staff of 20, to 500 brands and hundreds of staff in just six years with offices in Kuala Lumpur, Singapore and Jakarta.
Vivy said her online fans gave her a leg up when she started out. “They were my only customers when we first started. Maybe, they only bought for the first time just to support me,” Vivy said in an interview with American business magazines Forbes last year.
Fashion Valet was founded in 2010 with the aim of bringing the latest trends and staples to fashion enthusiasts. It has also helped support various local designers by showcasing and selling their collections on the site.
Vivy, 27, even has her own reality show. Called Love, Vivy, it chronicles her busy life – juggling her fashion empire with her role as a mother of two. The 2016 television programme gave viewers a chance to get a glimpse of what makes a successful online business, from managing marketing campaigns to dealing with complaints and issues.
“Customers know Fashion Valet from a computer screen where they shop but I want to be even closer to them,” Vivy told Star2 last year. Her reality show is a way for customers to get to know her brand better.
Fashion Valet is now one of Malaysia’s top fashion retail websites, attracting customers from Europe, the Americas, Asia, the Middle East and Australia. It offers everything from ready-to-wear garments to accessories and handbags.
If you think that Vivy is contented with just taking the Internet by storm, you’re wrong. Unlike other brick-and-mortar fashion retailers that have expanded into the online market, her company is doing things the other way around.
Fashion Valet now has two stores in Kuala Lumpur, and one on Orchard Road in Singapore. There is also talk of opening more outlets in other neighbouring South-East Asian countries, too.
Her other business, Duckscarves, is also doing well, being one of the most popular scarf brands in the country. And one of the advantages of owning a shopping portal? You get to sell your very own brand on it.
Datin Winnie Loo
Founder, A Cut Above
Datin Winnie Loo needed her mother’s help to convince her father to allow her to take up hairstyling. From young, she knew it was what she was most passionate about and she was determined to pursue her dreams.
So, in 1976, she took an intensive course in hairstyling in London and was trained by the world’s best, including hair maestro Vidal Sassoon.
Today, the youthful-looking Loo – a mother of two – is the most recognised celebrity hairstylist.
Loo, 61, founded A Cut Above salon in 1979 in Kuala Lumpur with just a staff of five. She runs 15 outlets today. Her husband and business partner Richard Teo oversees the management of the company and a team of over 300 employees.
In the 1970s, the hair salon business was largely dominated by men but the Ipoh-born Loo broke the barrier for women hairstylists with her flair for identifying new trends and providing customers with professional service.
“At that time, I felt sore knowing that we women work so hard and can cut hair better than some men but the men get all the recognition! So when I got the chance to start my business in 1979, I wanted to change the way people looked at women hairstylists. I’m glad I managed to stand out,” says Loo.
A sought-after hairstylist, Loo has a clientele list consisting of well-heeled and distinguished personalities in Malaysia and the Asean region.
Loo’s achievements have gained her local and international recognition. In 1997, she was the first Malaysian to be awarded the World Master of the Craft by the Art & Fashion Group of New York, and she remains the only Malaysian to be bestowed with this honour. She received this prestigious award for excellence and for her efforts in upgrading standards in the industry.
Since 2004, she has been the president of the Malaysian Hair Association and is also the co-founder of Asia Hairdesigners Association.
Loo has received various awards over the years and among them are: the Lifetime Achievement Award in 2007 in Bangkok for her contribution to the hairdressing field at the Gala Asia Hairdesigners Association (AHA); Best Overall Award by Wanita MCA Chinese Entrepreneur Award 2007, Brand Laureate Award for the Best Brand in Hair Salon & Services; and Entrepreneur of the Year (Women Category) from Ernst & Young in 2010. She was also honoured as an Industry Expert recognised by the Department of Skills Development (JPK) of the Human Resources Ministry.
While her hairstyling expertise is often celebrated, Loo has also worked tirelessly to raise over RM2mil since 2000 for various charities and causes in Malaysia.