FASHION and fitness have been a big part of Mandy Yap’s life. A graduate from the Raffles Design Institute of Singapore, this Malaysian designer founded Banana Fighter three years ago, blending her two passions into one.
Beautiful to the eye and flattering on the body, Banana Fighter aims to cater to women who appreciate fitness without sacrificing fashion.
Banana Fighter is currently based in Malaysia and Hong Kong. Yap launched her second collection, known as the monotone series, last year.
What is Banana Fighter?
“Banana Fighter is a homegrown fashion-forward activewear for women on-the-go with the vision to empower and support other women to keep moving. It’s the concept of consistency, perseverance and prioritising health to go after your goals.
“Each piece is designed without trading fashion for comfort, using the best fabric sourced from all around the world, incorporating the knowledge of garment-fitting to produce something that will provide a boost of confidence.”
What is your role at Banana Fighter?
“Like in many local micro-businesses, I am [a founder] who fills every role at the moment. From design development, marketing, customer service, fulfilling orders, accounting, and so on. I believe that every business owner should never stop learning about every role, even if they have a team under them. New knowledge and skills go a long way. It would be my dream for the business to grow with a group of like-minded people in the future, influencing the landscape of fashion for fitness.”
How did you start Banana Fighter?
“It’s been my dream to build a clothing brand since I started sketching at the age of five, so I pursued Fashion Design. I was also very athletic growing up, and the idea came about when I saw there was a lack of designer activewear in the market, both international and locally.”
What’s the story behind the name?
“There isn’t any long story behind it. I wanted a name that is catchy and easy to remember. I was brainstorming with my sister, so we started exploring quirky combinations starting from the type of fruits and writing down words that reflect the brand value.
“When we came up with Banana Fighter, we had the “Ooooh” moment, so we proceeded with it. The name represents Fun, Energy and Resilience, and so far, every new person I met didn’t have trouble remembering the brand.”
How are you managing Banana Fighters during these extraordinary times?
“Honestly I am just trying to stay afloat during this uncertain situation. I am very grateful that my business is operating fully online, where the SOP remains unaffected in line with the local delivery services. But sales have reduced drastically.
“It’s essential to understand consumer’s behaviour and try to gauge if people are comfortable with or able to purchase goods that are categorised as non-essential during this time. At the same time, some people enjoy online shopping therapy to de-stress or take their mind off this downtime, some to support local micro-businesses.
“The online community plays a big part in most of our days now that we are homebound. That said, Banana Fighter is focusing on brand presence [including] communicating and engaging with the online community by sharing more humanity content, over capturing sales.
“We do this by sharing local fitness live classes. Here the community can join and have a good sweat, using our existing platform to help organisations that support and donate to the hospitals and people in need. We also introduce fitness and wellness-related educational channels for people who are looking to upgrade their skills.
“Apart from taking care of the online presence, I also took this time to reorganise Banana Fighter, refining the marketing and brand plan for the near future. Before the movement control order (MCO) was announced, I was working on developing designs for an upcoming collection. There was also a campaign I was particularly excited to launch in late March as well. Now, all the other production and sampling is on hold so I will be taking this time to dive deeper creatively.
“Unlike the apparel industry with seasons and trends to follow, I guess it’s safe to say that Banana Fighter activewear has always been about creating timeless pieces. Having style sustainability in mind, and when this uncertain time is over, I would still be able to resume selling what was put on hold, and hopefully, sales will eventually increase.
“Now more than ever, we all need to put humanity over business, and approach with empathy. You can always build a business, but with this incurable virus (Covid-19), one might lose more than just one life, and you’ll never get back what was lost.”