Cover Story: How Fiziwoo Went From The Underdogs To The Top Of The Fashion Chain
Tell us about yourselves.
Kai: I was born to a middle-income family in KL, and I was a straight A student—so because of my good grades, my family had hopes for me to be a professional. But I had always loved the arts and wanted to pursue a career that involved creativity. So, I chose architecture because it is somewhat a combination of both the art and scientific realms.
Fizi: I grew up in Penang, where my father was a policeman and my mother a housewife.To help support the family, my mum was also a part-time tailor. I learnt sewing from a young age and I enjoyed the technical parts of it. I would follow her and watch her measure, fit and interact with her customers. My interest in fashion really started from there.
How did you two meet and become business partners?
Fizi: A mutual friend introduced us while we were both university students. We hit it off and somehow talked a lot about fashion.
Kai: Although I studied architecture, I have always been curious about fashion. I had tried to partner with a designer before on a project, but it did not work out. I decided to try again with Fizi and he was keen! We never looked back ever since.
"No matter how famous Fiziwoo is, I will always treat everyone I meet with kindness. You will never know what people go through—whether you are rich or poor."— Izree Kai Haffiz
What has your journey with Fiziwoo taught you?
Kai: Fizi and I, we have gone through a lot of suffering to be where we are at today. Our first customers were our friends and we barely scraped by at first. We had to work hard in the early days to survive, sometimes we don’t have enough money to eat. It was tough because I had always grown up with food on the table; I would cry sometimes, but the experience taught me humility. No matter how famous Fiziwoo is, I will always remember that period of suffering and remind myself to treat everyone I meet with kindness. You will never know what people go through—whether you are rich or poor.
Fizi: My struggles are different than Kai’s. Let me tell you a secret I have kept for too long—I am colour blind. So you can imagine the stigma I have had to bear throughout my career. Once, at a fashion competition, I decided to be honest about my affliction to one of the judges. And he said, “You are good, but I am sorry, I cannot let you win this competition because you have no future in this business.” So I got second place, even though I found out later that other judges voted for me to win first place.
I am sorry to hear that happened to you.
Fizi: Don’t be. I learnt so much from it. It sucks, but it made me tougher. I promised myself that I would always do my best in fashion. Even if other people do not believe in me, I believe in myself and that is all that matters.
After all that struggle, when do you think Fiziwoo got its big break?
Kai: Our first big break was when the supermodel Tinie invited us to KLFW. We started modestly but the opportunities that came our way after the show helped us grow rapidly. We collaborated on a ready-to-wear collection with Zalora, designed the Miss Universe Malaysia costume and showcased our work internationally. These opportunities were great, but we never just depend on luck to get us through. Fizi and I worked too hard to leave things to chance. I even had to learn how to sew. As our business grew, Fizi had to teach me, just so he can sleep at night once in a while. And boy, was he a tough teacher! He would shout at me. So garang!
How do you both support each other as business partners?
Fizi: Kai lets me have full rein in the creativity and design; he trusts me a 100 per cent. He is my harshest critic, though. We are opposites in temperament; he’s a perfectionist and a sceptic, I am a dreamer and a believer. He managed the business with precision for me, so I can just go ahead and create beautiful designs. Working together for the past decade has made us closer. We will never give up on each other.
Even if other people do not believe in me, I believe in myself and that is all that matters.— Mohd Hafizi Radzi Woo
Have you ever thought of giving up?
Kai: Every time I think of giving up, I think about the time, energy and passion we’ve put into the business. It’s like parenting: no matter how tough it gets raising a child, you refuse to give up because of how much love you have for your baby. And that’s how I feel about Fiziwoo.
Grab a copy of Malaysia Tatler's February 2019 issue on newsstands for the full feature and interview, or subscribe to our digital issue here.
- Art DirectionSyahlia Albina Sari
- PhotographyGerald Goh/Imagerom
- HairMavis Ang
- Make-UpJoey Yap