Local label M)phosis revived by new owner

Apparel retailer Decks buys trademark, will open store at Century Square next month

A familiar name in the local fashion retail scene will soon be making a comeback, though its name may be all that is familiar.

M)phosis (pronounced "emphasis") will open at Century Square after the mall reopens on June 6.

Once considered as among Singapore's most successful home-grown fashion labels, M)phosis had more than 30 outlets in 11 countries at its peak. Its sudden closure amid cash flow problems in 2015 stunned many in the industry.

After the M)phosis trademark expired last year, it was bought by local apparel retailer Decks, which owns Surfers Paradise and Island Shop, among other brands.

Decks managing director Kelvyn Chee told The Straits Times the company has plans to update the M)phosis label, known for its clean-cut pieces in basic colours.

"It used to be one of the most successful brands and they (still) have a following here as well as overseas... With our resources and experience in handling brands, we think we can make it even better than in the past," said Mr Chee, 43.

The brand's former director, Mr Hensley Teh, said the new M)phosis label is unrelated to the founding company and its members.

PLANS TO IMPROVE BRAND

It used to be one of the most successful brands... With our resources and experience in handling brands, we think we can make it even better than in the past.

MR KELVYN CHEE, managing director of Decks, which bought the M)phosis trademark after it expired last year.

UNRELATED TO FOUNDING FIRM

We are concerned because this is not done by us... We built up 20 years of goodwill and people assume it is us coming back - it's misleading.

MR HENSLEY TEH, the brand's former director, who said he had no idea the brand was being revived.

Mr Teh, who now works as a manager at a local retail chain, said: "We are concerned because this is not done by us... We built up 20 years of goodwill and people assume it is us coming back - it's misleading."

The M)phosis trademark could not be renewed as the original company is dormant. But the founders had hoped to bring it back one day, said Mr Teh, 56. "We will have to resolve this and see whether we can make a comeback in the future."

Mr Chee, an industry veteran, said the new M)phosis label will retain "about 60 per cent" of its old style, while introducing new colours and designs.

"We want to keep the old fans but also cultivate new followers," Mr Chee said, adding that they are targeting women aged between 25 and 35.

Decks will introduce a smart fitting room in the M)phosis store later this year. It will have mirrors with a touch screen display that will, for example, suggest matching items and allow shoppers to select products for store assistants to pass to them.

The brand will also launch an e-commerce store next month, followed by another outlet in the central area and two to three in Malaysia by the year end.

Ms Esther Ho, deputy director at Nanyang Polytechnic's School of Business Management, said the brand's revival is bolstered by growing support for home-grown brands.

While fast fashion brands such as Zara and Cotton On pose stiff competition, having a unique design and brand identity can give local labels an edge, she said.

But bringing back the name alone "is not a ticket to success - if they come in with the same operating model, they will fail", said Ms Ho.

M)phosis fan Priscilla Ong is excited about the brand's return, even if it is under a new management team. "Clothes need to change with the times as well... I'm looking forward to their new designs," said the 36-year-old human resource executive.

"Local brands are important as well, otherwise everyone will be just wearing H&M and Zara. We need more brands and choices around."