There’s an infectious energy about Jovian Mandagie — in his smart button-up shirt and crease-free slacks — the Malaysian fashion designer takes time out from his busy schedule setting up his Brunei edition Jboxing event to speak with The Scoop.

“This year, we hope to be better. We brought in over 200 designs across six collections,” he laughs, referring to his second Jboxing, which opened this afternoon.

Last year, the three-day event drew in a crowd of over 15,000, clearing out almost all the stock the fashion powerhouse brought in.

Capturing the Brunei market

Judging by the overwhelming response he received last year, it’s easy to agree that Mandagie has indeed charmed Bruneians with his ready-to-wear collection.

“Compared to Jboxing in other Malaysian cities, sales in Brunei is stronger… It is [better] than in Johor or Kota Kinabalu, for example. Of course, this doesn’t include Kuala Lumpur,” he shares.

Spurred on by his growing fan base in the sultanate, he plans to make Jboxing an annual event in Brunei.

“The Brunei market is small but competition is low and we have a good fan base here. Bruneians also have strong purchasing power,” he observes, noting that in Malaysia, the average customer buys two pieces of clothing. However, in Brunei the number of clothing bought per customer averages at four pieces.

Baiduri Bank cardholders browse through the Jovian Ready-To-Wear collection at JBoxing Brunei held at the Empire Hotel & Country Club. Photo: Rasidah Hj Abu Bakar/The Scoop

When asked about growing his bridal wear customers in Brunei, he acknowledges that his steep price point for custom-made bridal wear has earned him limited following. However, he is seeing an increasing number of Bruneians buying into his ready-to-wear bridal line, which can be purchased online or at his store in Kuala Lumpur.

Despite this, the self-made designer says that he has no plans to open up branch here, as he is happy to just release his collections in collaboration with his local partner, Bajoo. “I will keep it this way for now.”

Not one to make his customers feel left out and in a bid to capture more hearts, Mandagie today released two Brunei-inspired headscarves carrying the motifs of the iconic Kampong Ayer and Bunga Simpur. “It’s a way to show my appreciation,” he says.

Committed to giving back 

“Brunei has been good to me, so I want to give back,” Mandagie says, sharing his plans of  conducting workshops for aspiring local designers.

“I am a very aggressive entrepreneur I know what I want and I will work for it… It shows in my career and in what I have achieved so far.”

Jovian Mandagie conducting his first fashion workshop on April 25, 2018 in collaboration with local telco Progresif Cellular. Photo: Courtesy of Progresif Cellular

Mandagie burst into the fashion scene a decade ago, and has never looked back. He believes the experience building his fashion empire can help industry players in Brunei. In fact, he has been working with local telco Progresif Cellular to conduct Brunei’s first fashion workshop.

“The [fashion industry] in Brunei it isn’t developed yet, so being able to share my experience can help budding entrepreneurs get a sense of what it is like to curate your own fashion collection — from photoshoots to branding. I want to share with them this insight.”

At the workshop earlier this week, Mandagie worked with five teams to push them outside their comfort zones and deliver their best work under pressure. Winners will get to spend a day working alongside him in Kuala Lumpur, where they will learn the elements of what it takes to be a successful fashion entrepreneur.

“There are a lot of talented people in Brunei, and this will help them develop,” he says.

According to Devin Edwards, Progresif’s chief marketing officer, the main goal of the workshops is “to help local talent gain experience and coaching as a way of propelling their ambitions forward into viable businesses”.