Looking good does not need to be expensive. This is the idea that Malaysian menswear label Oxwhite believes in. Shirts are set at a low price (RM69 – RM99), yet they adhere to a high quality.
According to founder CK Chang, the secret is using a pre-order business model. In this, men make their purchase online, but receive their shirts three to four months later.
“With ready stocks, the price needs to be marked up because you have to finance the inventory. You also have to factor in the cost of storage, as well as the manpower to manage it,” he explains.
“A pre-order business model is the leanest. A traditional e-commerce retailer may increase their prices by three times. A physical store may even push up prices in the factor of seven or eight times.”
As such, Chang says that well-made shirts like his are usually sold for about RM400 by other labels. But he thinks it is not just the price that has proven to be a big draw.
Oxwhite shirts are produced in Indonesia. It uses Supima (Superior Pima) cotton from the United States, which is said to account for less than 1% of the world’s cotton production and is renowned for its softness and strength.
“The quality of our shirts speak for themselves. Big fashion brands manufacture their products in this region too. What we have as an ‘extra’ is a wider range of sizes that caters to Asians,” Chang states.
Learning The Trade
Chang relates that he first thought of starting his business two years ago when he had a shirt made at Savile Row, a street in Mayfair, central London, known principally for its traditional bespoke tailoring for men.
“I noticed that it brought to me a level of confidence I never had before. When you have a well-fitted shirt of a good quality, you know you’ll look good. And that translates into feeling really good about yourself,” he notes.
Chang says that he began his Oxwhite journey by going abroad and learning how shirts are made and sold in different countries. Or as he puts it, “Asking stupid questions basically.”
That is how he discovered the different ways a good shirt is made. Also, he found the answers to queries like “What materials work best?” or “Where do luxury labels produce their shirts?”
“At first, everyone was telling me that it won’t work. Guys simply won’t buy a shirt so many months in advance. But I believed in my instinct that such a business model will work, and it did!”
Moving forward, Oxwhite will be offering more product options. These include different colours of shirts, as well as dress pants. Maybe even complete suits.
“To tell the story of a good white shirt is just the beginning,” Chang points out. “However, I don’t think we will ever open a physical store. If we do that, it will take the form of an experiential boutique instead.”