How much would you pay for a high quality good-fit non-iron formal white shirt similar to what you can find at Hugo Boss?
You would probably find them ranging from RM 600 onwards to even thousands of ringgit, and what’s more, they would likely not fit you that well as an Asian, as many of these branded shirts are tailored for European physiques.
For most of us, this is probably not something we can spend on easily.
But what if I tell you, you can actually find a shirt of this quality and workmanship for just RM 99, catered to the Asian physique?
This is exactly what you can find at Oxwhite, a Malaysian apparel brand that takes a direct-to-consumer approach, cutting out unnecessary costs such as middlemen and retail mark-ups commonly found in other branded labels.
Oxwhite Founder CK Changr Dressed in the Brand’s Signature Supima Cotton Non-iron White Shirt. Photo Credits: Oxwhite
The vision of affordable high-quality white shirts tailored for Asians
Oxwhite founder CK Changr believes that confidence should not be expensive. It all started when he was in London for a business trip in 2016, and decided to splurge on a tailor-made shirt in Savile Row, an upclass district where shirts typically cost 200-300 pounds onwards.
A shirt like this gave him a certain level of confidence, and the Malaysian wanted to bring this experience to the Asian market, at a price that regular Malaysians can afford.
“Through my work, I had many opportunities to travel overseas, but I often lacked self-confidence when meeting people for business in developed countries,” CK shared. “For many [Malaysians], we underdress, or we would wear the same thing over and over again, like a suit and a shirt because they are so expensive.”
“But if we look at our Western counterparts, they [can afford to] dress well and present themselves well,” he added. “So I have this dream – what if one day everyone could afford to look good and dress well?”
And that started his two-year journey to make this vision a reality.
Starting out with zero experience and knowledge of the apparel industry
“[Starting this business] was like drawing on a white canvas,” he said. “I had no clue [about many things]. Many consumers like myself wouldn’t know what quality and materials go into the shirts, or about cutting or fitting. So everything was very new to me.”
But this only sparked his curiosity and determination to learn more. “During that time, I would ask a lot of silly questions, like ‘Why does this shirt cost so much?’, ‘What colours match Asian skin?’ I would ask about the cutting, the types of collar, size charts, why one brand costs more than another brand, etc,” he added. “I wanted to get a basic understanding from the point of view of customers – the kind of questions they would ask.”
CK Changr. Photo Credits: Oxwhite
Hugo Boss’ Supima non-iron white shirts, which retails at RM 600 onwards.
“I thought, this is it! It’s easy-iron, I liked the material, the feel of it. They are one of the few big brands that make this type of shirt,” he said.
The arduous journey to find a manufacturer for high-quality non-iron white shirts
But when CK researched more, he realised that there was a question he could not find an answer to – the manufacturing cost of a shirt like this.
“They are like the Mercedes Benz class of white shirts,” he said. “Not many manufacturers make them. This is not something you can Google for or find easily on Alibaba.”
He approached many factories in different countries, but all ended in rejections. “You can’t just walk into Mercedes Benz especially if you are completely new to the industry, and ask if they could [produce] for you.”
But his perseverance finally paid off. Through a friend, he managed to connect with the manufacturer of Hugo Boss’ shirts based in Bandung, Indonesia.
“From my understanding, there’s less than five factories in the world that manufacture this kind of high-quality non-iron white shirts,” CK said. “It’s very rare because of the high cost of production.”
These are usually megafactories with complex processes and treatments to ensure quality craftsmanship and products. And the factory he was introduced to employs 20,000 workers.
The Factory in Indonesia that Manufactures Oxwhite’s Products Employs 20,000 Workers and Has Many Processes to Ensure Quality Shirts. Photo Credits: Oxwhite
“I told him, ‘Bapak, I just have a dream to be able to let Asian people dress confidently, affordably,’ he said, and shared with the owner his vision and why he wanted to do this.
“The pitching went really well and he said, ‘Young man, I believe in you.’ And that time I didn’t even have a business card, a company nor a brand name, as I just wanted to find out what the cost was at that stage to see if my idea was really feasible.” CK said. “I had no experience in e-commerce, and I wanted to sell the shirts via pre-order, which was quite unheard of for the older folks at that time. But they gave us full support.”
CK Changr at the Oxwhite Factory in Indonesia. Photo Credits: Oxwhite
Sold 3000 shirts through pre-order in 6 hours (even with up to 4-months’ wait)
After convincing three co-founders to come on board, including Tai Zi Kang and Ho Kam Wai of Fitgear (an activewear brand selling premium quality fitness wear at affordable prices), CK resigned from his day job and dived full-time into starting Oxwhite in January 2018.
In June 2018, Oxwhite launched its first pre-order sale of high quality non-iron white shirts made of Supima cotton at an unbelievably affordable price of RM 69 (now, it costs RM 99, which is still very affordable for its quality).
Oxwhite’s Pre-order Concept in 2018. Photo Credits: Oxwhite
Their social media ads went viral and they sold 3000 shirts in 6 hours, even though customers had to wait up to 120 days to receive their shirts!
Now, with its success, Oxwhite no longer works on a pre-order model and it typically only takes 5 to 15 business days for your shirt to reach you in Malaysia.They have also expanded to sell casual wear and innerwear for both men and women, women’s formal wear, bags, bath towels and even children’s clothes and more.
Screen Capture of Oxwhite’s Website, Which Now Offers a Range of Apparel from Men’s Shirts to Women’s Casual Wear and Innerwear
And people love it – to date, they have more than 250,000 customers and 68% are returning customers. Majority of their overseas customers are from Singapore.
Committing to sustainability
Last year, they introduced high grade bamboo towels and plant-based natural laundry liquids and replaced plastic wrappers on some products with brown paper packaging.
Some of Oxwhite’s Products Are Now Wrapped in Brown Paper Packaging Like This Instead of Plastic. Photo Credits: Oxwhite
“The cost on the environment is intangible and can’t be easily calculated,” he added.
It is also of utmost importance that this message is conveyed to consumers, he said. Oxwhite has the responsibility to educate consumers on what they are buying and why it’s important to choose something that’s sustainable – and this message can be seen on both their social media and website.
CK walks the talk even in his personal life, such as committing to a vegetarian diet since two years ago and cutting down on dairy products. He believes that every little action we take matters.
Empowering the younger generation with growth opportunities
In building his team, CK seeks to empower young people, even if they are from completely different industries and are not university graduates, as long as they are willing to put in effort and try out something new.
Majority of his employees in his 28-strong team are in their twenties. Once, an 18-year-old fresh out of high school wrote in asking for an internship opportunity and was subsequently hired.
“I like that courage [in young people],” he explained, sharing that having started from zero from a completely different industry himself. He believes that if people put their heart to it, they can learn something new, excel in it and even greatly increase their job employability.
He added, “This is something that even a degree can’t necessarily get you.”
You can check out and purchase Oxwhite’s products here.