From a young age, Matthew Benjamin Yoon knew that business was in his bones. The schoolboy went from selling ais kacang by night, and progressed to selling school bags with his cousins for extra pocket money. Such were the humble beginnings of Active Fashion Worldwide’s managing director, abuzz from his recent launch of luxury kidswear store, Junior Lookbook in Pavilion KL. Impressed by how Matthew anchored a name for himself through practical experience, we delved into his entrepreneurial journey and philosophies of success.
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Above Matthew Benjamin Yoon, Elizabeth Lee Yeh Yun and Brian John Yim


Laying the foundation

“I was always ready to become a fashion entrepreneur,” explained the finely dressed Matthew, whose boyish looks belie a 15-year tenure in fashion retail. “I really enjoy my work, I like talking about it and sharing it with people around me.”

 Friendly, gracious and resourceful – these are the qualities Matthew brings with him into the world of fashion. 2015 heralded the very first premium kidswear label, set up by Matthew and his business partner Brian John Yim. Today, they have secured exclusive distribution rights for luxury designers like Kenzo Kids, Paul Smith Junior and Aigner Kids in Malaysia.

 An aptitude to fashion 

“I discovered fashion in my working journey. I appreciate all my bosses and seniors until today because they had gave me a chance and brought me up. I still keep in touch with them for advice – my goal is to make Malaysia a leading country for luxury kidswear.”

Play with colours

“Colour is always IN for all brands, from couture or ready-to-wear. In formal occasions, men shouldn’t just stick to a black suit and tie. Instead, try something interesting like a metalic gold/silver blazer with black satin or velvet. Colour coordination is great to create a chic silhouette for daily wear. For styling, less is more but put extra effort into details and accessories, in order to stand out.”

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Above Vincent Tan, Shaine Wong, Jacob Tan, Brian John Yim, Matthew Benjamin Yoon, Elaine Tan, Sampson Looh and Nathan Looh


My entrepreneurial style

“‘Walk alone, fast. Walk together, far.’ Guiding people requires patience and takes more time than when you do it alone. I used to do it myself but now, I emphasise training staff for an opportunity to grow within the company. I never do the same thing twice, and am constantly challenging the team and myself to create new ideas.”

A key lessons as a business owner

“Besides working hard, business owners also need to work smart and have good connections with different industries.”

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Above Deborah Henry, Amber Chia, Carrie Lee, Matthew Benjamin Yoon, and children Ashton and Michelle


How to: Aligning international labels to local tastes

“Before signing on any brand, we will conduct a market survey for feedback from our regulars. For every brand that enters the market, we will also invite regular customers to celebrate with us and preview the collection.” 

“Our customers buy quality and valuable clothing to express affection for their children. Parents naturally want the best for their kids when borne out of love.”

How to: Design a child and parent-friendly boutique

“While our flagship store façade is sophisticated, all furniture and fixtures are eye level or below so it's accessible for everyone. Comfortable sofas are positioned in the middle of the shop for the comfort of the entire shopping party. There is also a makeover corner outside the fitting rooms for parents and kids to enjoy. From the window displays, visual merchandise, lighting, store scent, music and customer service, a high-end shopping experience for all.” 

Valuable lessons learned from their luxury retail overseas

“Although it is still growing, it is becoming more competitive. Throughout the journey of challenges and revamps, luxury fashion retail has become more attractive and developed. We foresee that the fashion world will be getting better and better because people have more discerning tastes now.”

Making Junior Lookbook relevant to Malaysia

"Multibrand stores are a great concept for a new market. In 2018, we will be carrying Lanvin Paris and Kenzo Kids from France, Neil Barrett Kids, Stella McCartney Kids and Paul Smith Junior from UK, and Italian brands we had FENDI, Young Versace, Emilio Pucci Junior and Gianfranco Ferré. From experience, consumers shop according to brand availability and visibility in the market. Although online business is growing, to feel and touch luxury goods completes the shopping experience. Malaysian shoppers are now looking for better lifestyles and are choosing quality over quantity."

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Above Matthew's job takes him to the world's top fashion capitals. Pictured here at the Place de la Concorde, Paris


Measurement of success

"I learned a lot from success stories of various fields and industries – To me, fashion retail is impressive but very hard to do. Junior Lookbook is the first to launch the new Spring/Summer to Autumn/Winter collections. Even tourists from Shanghai, Hong Kong, Dubai and Singapore visit us to do shopping for latest kidswear. I am happy because this means we are a leading example for luxury kidswear."

Looking ahead

"Our next store will launch at at Robinsons Four Seasons in April 2018, which is on par with Galeries Lafayette and Harrods. Our grand event of next year, the "Junior Lookbook Fashion Gala 2018", will officially launch new Italian brands Further on in 2019, we are slated to open a flagship store in Pavilion Damansara Height."

Photos: Courtesy of Matthrew Benjamin Yoon 

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