Thread Talk with Iman Kamarudin, Petit Moi Co-founder

Beyond a fashion label with strong online presence, Petit Moi is a safe space for the likeminded.

Thread Talk is a series venturing into a designer’s inner workings and thoughts. Today, we have Iman Kamarudin, the co-founder of the beloved local fashion brand Petit Moi, capturing hearts with its classic French-inspired design and the strong community it created.

The love for French flair is eternal and has earned itself many followers over the decades, including Iman Kamarudin, co-founder of Malaysian brand Petit Moi. Funnelling je nais se quoi neatly into promising and weather-appropriate designs, Petit Moi quickly rose to popularity, especially with its strong online presence. “My dream is to ensure Petit Moi has something for everyone and that people of all ages can find a piece that they will resonate with,” Kamarudin shares. 

With a background in finance and economics, Kamarudin started Petit Moi as a side hustle—less for the revenue but more as an outlet to channel her passion for fashion and art. Despite starting with childrenswear, Petit Moi has always positioned itself as a lifestyle brand—one that eventually evolved into a small, close-knit community of its own, a safe space for like-minded creatives-turned-customers or vice versa. At Petit Moi, putting human interaction front and centre drives the label forward. 

We caught up with the co-founder to talk about Petit Moi, and how the brand grew beyond its social media presence, eventually becoming one of the most sought-after local community-led lifestyle brands.

How would you introduce Petit Moi?

We are a local lifestyle brand that advocates for a sense of joie de vivre (joy of life) in everything we do, from the products we create to our collaborations. Beyond just making you look good, we hope to make you feel amazing and live your best life—a Petit Moi lifestyle for all.

How did Petit Moi come about?       

We started as a childrenswear brand. As mothers, my partner Farihin and I loved the idea of creating clothes for our children and our other partner, while Pamela had the manufacturing expertise. The three of us loved fashion and at that time, we also saw an opportunity in the childrenswear market within the local space. Hence, the name Petit Moi literally translates to “Little Me” in French.

Since Petit Moi started as a childrenswear brand, what led to the change?

After launching the brand, we did a lot of pop-ups to get to know our customers and also understand the childrenswear market better. We found an interest in our designs even amongst the adults; they would love to dress in our pieces too! We then decided to introduce the adult collection. It’s safe to say that most of our releases, be it garments or other products, are creations that excite us too. It’s delightful to see how well-received Petit Moi is within the community.

Can you walk us through the process of launching a full collection?

I’m fortunate to be part of a very passionate and creative group at Petit Moi. Brainstorming ideas is an ongoing thing, we’re constantly looking for inspiration—everything that we see in our daily lives inspires us, and we then bounce these ideas off of each other. 

Once we’ve agreed on a concept for the new collection, that’s when we’ll dive deep into the research and development. We look into how the execution and tweak it accordingly so that the idea will be uniquely ours. Both the design and marketing teams work hand in hand for each collection and the process of creation always sends shivers down our spines. 

Petit Moi is well-established today, but what would you do differently if given the opportunity?

It’s very kind of you to say so, but I don’t think we’re well-established yet! That said, I do see the growth from when we first started and I’m utterly grateful for all the little wins. I think there is always a lesson or reason behind every experience so I’m enjoying the journey. If given the opportunity, I think I would still want to do something that allows me to explore my creative juices, eventually build a community out of it, and perhaps, be more daring or forward-thinking in decision-making. 

On that note, what is the thought behind building such a community? Will this be a mainstay of the brand?

The community is a part of the brand, but the challenge is how to maintain that personal touch as we grow. I think for me, part of the joy and satisfaction that I derive from Petit Moi is the community—not only from getting to know what people like about the pieces we created but also from being able to provide a safe space that allows people to connect and even collaborate with. 

I enjoy talking and gushing over similar interests and passions with people; I love how Petit Moi is that outlet for me to do so and hopefully, others feel the same way too. The ultimate goal is striking that balance between growing the community and retaining that personal connection.

As a local brand, how far do you think the industry has come as compared to when you first started? 

I think the industry has seen tremendous growth and it’s truly beautiful. As we welcome more new local brands, we are also seeing a growing appreciation and support from the local community. This, in turn, creates a space for local brands to explore their creativity and an opportunity to grow into something bigger than what we’ve seen, levitating the local fashion scene altogether. I’m always in awe of the amount of talent we have in this community.  

Looking back, what is your biggest challenge?

I think one of the biggest challenges I’ve encountered so far is the willingness to take bigger risks, and also to brush up my skill in delegation. People who have known me since the beginning would agree with me and could see the difference. I’m still struggling with delegation, but I’ve come to realise that not only can I not do everything, but there are also people far better than me at certain tasks and this has made all the difference at Petit Moi. I can’t say enough how blessed we are to have talented, passionate and dedicated individuals in our Petit Moi family. They are the backbone and the reason behind all our wins. I’m so grateful for each and every one of them.

Of all the facets of this business, which takes the utmost priority? 

For me, beyond ensuring the financial stability of the business, I want to say it’s the welfare of our team and the community. I think people are important—the community allows us to continue doing what we love and to evolve into a business that, in turn, supports so many others. Likewise, Petit Moi would be nothing without our team and support system—they are the ones keeping the company running like a well-oiled machine. I highly believe not only in investing in good people but also in creating a good environment for all. Living in a community, where human touch and mutual understanding are valued, makes all the difference.

As you’ve gone through the ups and downs of the game, what is one of the biggest mistakes you’ve made, and what have you gleaned from it?

At the very beginning, the brand was not perceived and treated as a proper business entity because I had my main job at that time, and Petit Moi was just a side hustle. I was overly focused on all the aesthetic aspects and failed to keep an eye on the overall health of the company—the decisions I made might not have been in the company’s best interest. It took several wake-up calls and make-or-break moments for me to change my perspective and get into gear. It was something as simple as insufficient production, wrong financial decisions, or delegation issues. That’s why, I’m a huge advocate for going to business and management classes, and mentorship. Constant learning will help you to navigate the ups and downs of managing a business. For Petit Moi, it’s built upon the knowledge and advice I received from our mentor; my dad.