Cover Photography: Benny Loh

Love, Bonito has become one of Singapore’s most successful e-commerce brands, but its mission goes beyond selling affordable, trendy clothes. Dione Song tells us about her new social impact initiative and plans to champion women’s issues

Fashion is all about self-expression, notes Dione Song of Love, Bonito, but its impact is more than just what the eye can see. Through fashion, “everyone can be empowered to find their own unique voice; to refrain from conforming and become the best versions of themselves”, says the newly minted CEO—the first in the history of the homegrown omni‑channel fashion brand.

Song is taking on the role with much enthusiasm. “The months have flown by. We’ve always seen ourselves as being in the business of empowering women—not fashion—so we’ve been spending the recent months fleshing out this ambition and coming together as a team to brainstorm on what this truly means for us. Pretty exciting times if you ask me!”  

In July 2021, Love, Bonito launched LBCreate, a social impact initiative which seeks to bring women’s issues to the forefront and create actionable steps for the future. The company recently partnered Room to Read, a non-profit organisation that supports children’s literacy and girls’ education in Asia and Africa, to fund the education of 100 girls in lower income communities. Song highlights, “Education is something I fiercely believe in, and making it accessible—especially for less privileged young girls—is something we are fortunate enough to contribute to.”

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It's the latest evolution of Love, Bonito, which has come a long way since its early days as BonitoChico, one of Singapore’s first successful e-commerce blogshops selling affordable and trendy threads as well as pre-loved clothing. Founders and Gen.T honourees Rachel Lim and Velda Tan, as well as Tan’s sister Viola, spotted a gap in the market for styles and silhouettes created for Asian women. Love, Bonito has since become one of the largest direct-to-consumer women’s fashion brands in Singapore, with physical stores and garnering key investments.

“We have a crystalised ambition to evolve into a meaningful ecosystem for the everyday Asian women, beyond just fashion,” says Song. To service and create a community for the modern Asian woman is at the crux of the brand’s ethos. Song shares, “I’d imagine that while she dares to dream, she’s content and grateful; while she has to wear many hats, she’s intentional about choosing what to wear and when to wear them; if and when she chooses family over work or vice versa, she doesn’t feel compromised but uplifted and empowered. And even though she’s straddling many roles, she thinks of not just herself but how to be the voice for other women.”  

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Lim and Song had crossed paths in 2016 at a networking event and hit it off instantly. “We spent the next three and a half years in the trenches together and really got to know each other,” shares Song. “I’m really grateful that we have such a bond—I don’t think it’s a common relationship between founding and executive teams. Since then, we’ve had a better understanding of each other’s strengths and weaknesses and, over time, built a tight partnership off the foundation of trust and friendship.”  

Since joining Love, Bonito in 2017, Song has served as its chief commercial officer, before becoming its chief operating officer 10 months later. She shares that stepping into the CEO role “came quite naturally and gradually” as she and Lim had openly discussed all concerns in the preceding 18 months before the appointment.

Landing in the retail tech industry was entirely happenstance for Song as she went into banking after graduating from business school. But she’s always had a penchant for design and problem solving, which happen to be the essential skills required at any consumer brand. Prior to her journey at Love, Bonito, she served as the regional director of digital marketing at French beauty retailer Sephora, and the managing director of Zalora Group. 

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Now Song is spearheading a company in growth mode. For one, its headcount has grown from 50 to 250 employees in the past four years. Given its global ambitions, it also continues to expand and increase its presence in 10 key markets across three regions: Southeast Asia, East Asia, as well as the Asian diasporas in Australia and the US. “The stakes are getting higher,” Song admits. “But my focus areas have not changed.” Her priorities lie in the company’s brand mission, its people, and its growth—all while maintaining a people-first culture in the workplace. 

“Apart from this, I’d like to be a bigger voice for gender equality and female inclusivity, especially in the workplace. According to the UN, women held only 28 per cent of managerial positions globally in 2019. It’s been a stagnant statistic since 1995. This means we need to do so much more and be a catalyst for change.”

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