Damien Foo: What It Takes To Build A Next Gen Luxury Brand In Malaysia

Promoted to Group Managing Director at just 39, Damien Foo is looking to change the way we perceive luxury and what the market itself has to offer buyers in a rapidly changing world.

As he leads Kaimirra Tutan to positioning it as one of the first brands in the market to curate and design its jewellery with Ammolite gems, he shares with Disruptr on the gaps he has identified, building a gemstone brand in Malaysia and the challenges ahead. 

What gaps are you trying to fill in by opening the Kaimirra Tutan’s flagship boutique in Malaysia?

Kaimirra Tutan is also the name of our luxury gemstone business. We source ammolites found in a specific region of Canada and shape them into fine and high jewellery. We are happy to have gotten distributorship for such a unique gemstone, created by Mother Nature across 70 million years.luxury brand

The recent opening of the Kaimirra Tutan boutique in Mid Valley Megamall, Kuala Lumpur offers a glimpse into what makes this luxury gemstone brand inextricably linked to the past, through its unique use of ammolite gemstones – created across 70 million years through a natural happenstance of fossilised shells of molluscs centred in South Alberta, Canada, in a radius of 10 sq km. range.

What are your thoughts on the current Malaysian luxury brand market?

Now that some regulations have been lifted and that the border has opened, everyone is starting to shop and we notice that there is a group of clients that have become more selective with where they shop and what they shop.

These people in fact are appreciating creations that are rare and having distinctive style and look. So, this is where Kaimirra Tutan identified a great opportunity to tap into those who are searching for the finer things in life – basically they do not want to wear or put on something that others could possibly have regardless of the price points.

How are you looking to build your luxury gemstone brand here in Malaysia?

Being a new maison in the luxury gemstone, we wanted to share with the market the story behind these beautiful gemstones.  There are lots of information sharing sessions involved and we are happy to invest the time to show people and potential buyers what makes the Ammolite a unique gem.

We are looking at new ways to educate our audiences about Ammolite gems and what gives it that otherworldly iridescence. Now that we have officially opened our flagship boutique, we want to create a seamless journey from our digital platforms to our physical location. This means we will be running more events, more workshops, and more partnerships that can encourage curious minds to explore our pieces and our gems.

Ammolite is a rare and unique gemstone. The Asian market has little or almost no knowledge of this gemstone which offers a vast opportunity for Kaimirra Tutan to introduce to the market.

What differentiates Kaimirra Tutan from other luxury jewelry brands in Malaysia?

Ammolite – no one jewellery brand is offering ammolite stone as part of their collections

We get the source directly from the miner – hence they are the best in terms of quality, authentic and rare as Ammolite is only available in Canada and Kaimirra Tutan is getting it directly from the source

There is no single piece of Ammolite that will be the same – this means each piece of jewellery is unique in its own character

What challenges are you foreseeing for 2023?

Online and in-person retail is moving very fast due to the speed of change in technological innovation.  New technology is introduced all the time in the area of omnichannel shopping, social selling, e-commerce, same day delivery, interactive retail experiences, and new customer acquisition channels.

As a retailer, we need to be fast in embracing to these changes to be a step ahead of competitors and more importantly, we need to know how we can embrace them seamlessly into our operations to deliver the best client experience

What key areas of growth for Kaimirra Tutan that you have identified and how do you plan on growing them?

We are very strong in our classy and vintage collections which our clients loved as there are truly ‘one of a kind’ in design

As such, we are expanding to a “simpler” but cool and stylish collection that caters to the younger market to foster our growth.

In my two years as managing director, the luxury gemstone business has gone from two to 15 members of staff. This progression and growth are allied with a strong understanding of our clientele. Knowing them helps us to add value to each stage of their experience, which begins when they step into our store.

For me, luxury means continuously improving ourselves, using our hands and emotion to transmit a memorable experience, which even includes taking our clients to the Canadian wilderness where they can observe the process of unearthing these rare ammolites. Our direct relationship with top gemstone mines in places such as Sri Lanka, and international design partners also means that we can customise pieces. For one of our clients, we custom designed a matching pendant, necklace and bracelet set of ammolites, rubies and sapphires totalling 85 carats.

Do you think the luxury market has changed drastically post-Covid? Are people still willing to spend equally as much in comparison to the pre-Covid market?

Yes, they are indeed spending more. There are more events running on a big scale and everyone wants to be part of it. Thanks to social media, it definitely helps to fuel the spend as everyone wants to be seen differently at each occasion.

More people are travelling abroad – and as such, most challenges for many luxury retailers are how we want to retain the customers with us since they have more options to go for.

Will we see more openings in different locations?

Definitely, we are already looking at downtown KL and in the midst of talking. The openings are not just within the country but we are already looking at expanding across Asia.

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