Freddie Beh: Trendsetter in Young Fashion

IT is not only women who dress smartly these days, but also men. Smart-looking men are usually referred to as metrosexuals, a term that seems to mesmerize metropolitan men. Following world-renowned soccer player David Beckham appearing smartly dressed, it seems that men all over the world want to emulate him.  

These new types of male urbanites worship the hedonistic lifestyle, appear trendy and always keep up with the latest trends. Perfume, clothing, accessories of famous brands formerly sort after only by women are now found on metrosexual men.  

It is this trend that encouraged Freddie Beh to make a career in the fashion business, a decision that he made after moving to Jakarta. Born in Singapore on March 14, 1980, Beh has a background in art and fashion as he used to be a stylist assistant for Singapore’s Female magazine.  

In Beh’s opinion, the tendency for urban gentlemen to appear trendy is not so much a metrosexual phenomenon as a manifestation of people’s increased daring in appearance and their penchant for experimenting with apparel. “It’s this idea that prompted me to open my clothes shop at Plaza Semanggi, Jakarta,” he said.  

Beh offers not just any apparel but unique, trendy and daring pieces of clothing, such as trendy lingerie and daring bikinis. The mass market was not ready to accept these products at the time and only daring youngsters, or trendsetters, did.  

Beh thought business in this specific market was promising and he became more serious about it with the setting up of PT Metrox Lifestyle (referring to the word “metrosexual”) after he found business partners and got a fresh injection of capital. His business, set up in 2004, is concerned not only with selling apparel but also, in the long term, with fashion design. He, for example, approached U.S. manufacturers and asked to be their exclusive distributor in Indonesia, or in Asia.

“I don’t just take any brand. First I do some a research to find out which brands are top sellers there and can be successful here,” he said.  

The first brand he took on was Crocs, a footwear brand made with sophisticated technology. Using a super-light material, these shoes are not only comfortable to wear but are also ergonomic in the sense that they conform to foot shapes. The problem is that these shoes have an unusual appearance.

“That’s why children were initially our main market target, followed later by the whole family. Today, everyone wears these shoes,” said Beh, whose father is a retired military officer and mother is a housewife.  

Beh realizes that Crocs has its own class so he carefully chose the locations for his outlets to sell this footwear. He has opened outlets in up market malls and plazas like EX Plaza Indonesia, Pacific Place and Senayan City, and now has 17 outlets in Jakarta, Bandung, Surabaya and Bali.  

His success with Crocs made Beh more enthusiastic in pursuing more well-known brands. Today, he is the exclusive distributor of no fewer than 16 brands. For footwear and accessories he holds the licenses for Paris Hilton, SportStyle by Asics, Junk Food, Mek Denim, RG 512, Antik, Tough Jeansmith, K-Swiss and Ed Hardy while for apparel he has True Religion, Royal Elastics, Havaianas, Evisiu, Onitsuka Tiger, Harajuku Lover and Christian Audiger.  

Unlike La Coste or Giordano, for example, many of these brands are perhaps unfamiliar to Indonesians. But, indeed, the brands that Beh has brought here are the brands of today. They are trendy the world over and are in great demand among youngsters of the MTV generation. “Older people may have their own brands but who caters to youngsters?” asked Beh, the second of two siblings.  

Youngsters, particularly those who are well traveled such as students of international schools in Jakarta, are, among others, the market target of Metrox products. To promote his range of products, Beh has not only used young bands that enjoy great popularity but he has personally sponsored MTV VJs. “The market is here!” said Beh, who once had a request to leave his goods on consignment rejected by a local company that has outlets selling branded apparel.  

Metrox products, first sold at a small shop at STC Senayan, Jakarta, can now be found in 22 outlets. Beh has also opened five Motion outlets, which sells several brands, particularly footwear, under one roof. “Motion is beyond an ordinary shoe store. It is the only place where shoe lovers, fashionable young Indonesians and people concerned with their looks can find their dream shoes,” said Beh, who is also active as Metrox’s creative director.  

Outlets designed by Beh always have a unique feature, not only artistically but also conceptually. Motion, which is located at FX Sudirman Jakarta, for example, has an artistic design. At night, the shop does need have to be closed up because laser beams protect it. “In short, there must be something different from other shops,” said Beh, who is a 1996 interior design graduate of Singapore’s La Sale College.  

Beh was tight-lipped about his exact sales figures, saying only that Metrox’s sales growth could reach 20 to 30 percent a month. “It’s a good business,” he said. With this achievement, he is planning to open outlets abroad, especially since holds licenses for Asia on certain brands. He is now hoping to open outlets in Singapore, Malaysia, the Philippines and Vietnam.  

He is not only concentrating on other people’s brands but is preparing his own: One Earth. This fashion brand has a green concept, and is being introduced in the spirit of corporate social responsibility and reflects his concern about the environment. Two percent of One Earth sales will be donated to the Indonesian Orangutan Foundation.  

A spacious outlet measuring about 1,000 square meters at Grand Indonesia has been prepared and is scheduled to open in October. This will not be just a clothes store but it will also have an oxygen bar.

“The competition has become increasingly fiercer so we must be more creative,” said Beh, who says he sleeps only four hours a night. “I have no university background so I must study more. Every night I look into new practices, particularly in marketing,” he added. (Burhan Abe)  

The Jakarta Post, September 03, 2008

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