Malaysia’s own hip-hop brand


By B.K. SIDHU

BE yourself and wear the clothes that best suit you whatever your age, even though they may belong to the hip-hop culture. 

That is what Ibrahim Ivan Omar, the chief branding officer of be elementz Sdn Bhd said. 

He came dressed in an oversized white T-shirt and baggy jeans for the interview. 

To him, that was his normal dress code no matter where he went.  

“This attire makes me comfortable and I am myself,” he confesses. 

Ibrahim felt there was a huge market in Malaysia and even in Asia for a local hip-hop brand, thus the creation of be

be elementz wants to project the right image of the hip-hop culture in Malaysia. 

“There is a lot of misconception towards the culture here,” he said. 

Ibrahim Ivan Omar (standing centre) at his store in 1 Utama

The hip-hop culture had its beginnings in New York in the 1970s where it gained popularity among African-American youths.  

It quickly spread throughout the world and was better defined by four main elements – emceeing (rapping), DJ-ing (mixing, cutting and scratching), graffiti art and breakdancing. 

To Ibrahim, hip-hop ultimately means, “to be what you want to be” and the clothing is normally loose, flashy but comfortable. 

The creation of be came about after he had returned to Malaysia upon the completion of his studies in the US. 

Ibrahim saw many Malaysian youths wearing thick jackets and winter caps as they wanted to be associated with the hip-hop culture. 

But such clothes were not suitable, given Malaysia's hot climate.  

He then put up a proposal on how to create a local hip-hop brand to tap the vast opportunities. 

be elementz is a subsidiary of Prolexus Bhd, which is a player in the apparel industry for the past 26 years and has clients such as Nike, GAP, OshKosh and Puma

It has five manufacturing plants in Malaysia, China and Sri Lanka. 

Having the background in apparel, Prolexus bought his idea and in May this year, the company opened its first store at the 1 Utama shopping complex. 

They used fabric such as cotton and polyester, which were more suitable to local conditions.  

The initial investment cost was RM3mil, of which RM800,000 was used to set up the store in 1 Utama. 

Four more stores are planned for the Klang Valley and one in Penang. As for the rest of the country, be elementz is working with several departmental stores to carry its brand. 

“We would invest about RM500,000 for each store and the funds would come from our parent, Prolexus,'' he said. 

Barely three months in operations, the store in 1 Utama is doing fairly well, according to Ibrahim. 

“All this is because of our positioning. We are the only Malaysian company that is producing genuine hip-hop garments best suited for our weather,'' he said. 

The long-term plan is not to stay within Malaysia's shores but venture beyond them.  

The target is Asia. By first half of next year the aim is to set up shop in Singapore, followed by Jakarta, Manila, Taipei and many more. 

The company is currently working with apparel makers and distributors in other countries either in the form of joint ventures or through franchising of its brand. 

In five years time, Ibrahim's vision is for the be brand to be the hip-hop brand in Asia; a brand that could compete with the likes of international names such as Rocawear, SeanJohn, Fubu or even Enyce. But there are challenges too. A major one is a mindset shift that is needed for the acceptance of the hip-hop culture that is often perceived to be a western culture. 

“It is certainly not a western culture as perceived, but one which transcends race, gender, or even religion. We, at be elementz, want to be seen as leader in promoting the right messages and facts about hip-hop. A paradigm shift is necessary,'' he added. 

Ibrahim believes there are no local competitors and also no Asian hip-hop brand that is why he wants to position as the Asian hip-hop brand and believes the market is big enough to provide plenty of choices to consumers. 

“It does not stop anyone from coming up with another hip-hop brand but not many are as bold and brave as us,'' he commented. 

From apparel, the be label would soon carry accessories and sports wear. 

be elementz is 51% owned by Prolexus and the remaining 49% is distributed among its employees. 

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