Angeline featured in The Malay Mail

Angeline featured on The Malay Mail


GROWING up in an influential family who made their fortune in retailing, it was only a matter of time before Angeline Khoo would start her own business.

Combining an eye for pretty patterns and a passion to help the less fortunate, the Oxford graduate's range of kimonos may be a small enterprise for now, but it has a big heart that stems from a sister's love for a younger brother who lives with autism.

Launched last December, Rosie On Fire updates the traditional Japanese garment and is made by single mothers and women from low-income families.

"My little brother is autistic so it's always been an area I'm passionate about and my mother has been involved in a lot of women's rights efforts - those two things are what pushed me to start my own company," said Khoo, who studied law in the University of Buckingham and earned a Masters degree in Science from Oxford.

Born in Australia, raised in Canada and based in London, Khoo fondly remembers her yearly trips back to Malaysia where she was a child and was keen to operate the business from Kuala Lumpur.

"We used to come back every summer as children and there's a sense of familiarity, my parents are from here so I'm always happy when I'm here," said Khoo, who flies to Malaysia once a month.

"I want to contribute to causes close to me and I see the need here."

As the daughter of business tycoon Tan Sri Khoo Kay Peng and former Miss Malaysia Pauline Chai, Khoo learned the ropes of retailing very early on, taking part in Laura Ashley's discussions and strategy planning.

She also worked as an analytics researcher for an economics company and spent a year at Oxford helping special needs students.

Rosie On Fire was born out of the pursuit of the perfect modern kimono, a garment the 32-year-old swears by.

"The previous cuts would sometimes be a bit straight on the bottom and flat at the back and sometimes would make me feel like I'm wearing a bathrobe and make me look bigger than I am," she told Malay Mail.

"I wanted to design something that would still be easy to wear and flatter a woman's body but still see a little bit of shape," said Khoo, who credits her mother for helping her develop an eye

Rosie on Fire on The Malay Mail for pretty things without breaking the bank.

Just six months after its online shop,, went live, many of the designs - priced between RM170 and RM400 - have been selling like hot cakes.

But beyond the brand's fast-selling outerwear, we simply had to ask: Why the name Rosie On Fire? 

According to Khoo, a year into setting up the business, they hadn't thought of a name until a secret admirer left her a rather peculiar cake.

"It was super pink and really intricate with a sweet and salty filling that has chilli in it so the cake had this kick. I know it sounds weird but it was really delicious so the 'On Fire' part was inspired by the chilli," she said.

In search of a fun, feminine and playful name that was unique, she eventually went with Rosie, a name that evokes a modern yet vintage vibe while ticking all the right boxes.

"The response was amazing and it was important for us to have an international appeal - half our customers are international and half have been domestic," shared the bubbly fashion entrepreneur, who worked with a master cutter to fine tune her signature curved and drapey kimono pattern.


Using this trademark silhouette, Khoo's kimonos are available in a myriad of patterns and prints, satiating the style needs of 18-year-olds and 80-year-olds alike.

The brand has also received requests from Japanese customers - for a contemporary kimono start-up, it's as flattering as it gets.

Khoo and her team of six travel all over Asia to source for fabrics from little alley shops and random stalls, forking out for excess baggage fee from their fabric haul.

Sourcing relatively small amounts would mean that pieces are limited and sometimes even one-off designs. Khoo said she will have to consider working with bigger factories to produce highly sought-after designs.

From a design standpoint, the lawyer-turned-designer with a big personality and infectious laugh said it was easy to see how the brand is very much a reflection of herself.

"I find it difficult to not tell the truth so I could never create something and then try to convince people that it's great," she quipped.

Not one to create something she would not wear, Khoo loved nothing more than returning customers whom she enjoys connecting with.

Angeline wants to contribute to causes"You need a better reason than making money because it makes the business more meaningful," she said.

For the doting elder sister who regards her 29-year-old autistic brother as her best friend, nothing gives Khoo more joy than being able to help others who are intellectually disabled.

"We are looking at training programmes specifically for autistic people to train them on packing, shipping and fulfilment," she said.

Despite growing up in a family of retailers and armed with adequate training, even Khoo was not immune to the infamous start-up fears of failing and unwelcomed judgment.

"I was scared because I've never done it before and there's so many people out there who are doing amazing things so it was both inspiring and scary," she said.

As Khoo makes her own mark in the retail world, the earnest and down-to-earth fashion entrepreneur said the past year and a half has been a journey of self-discovery, learning she could achieve something if she put her mind and heart to it.


Source : The Malay Mail 

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