Minimalist and practical diaper bag made in Malaysia

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After getting married at 25, Michelle Chu was pregnant with her first child the following year.

She couldn’t wait to start looking for a diaper bag as well as other baby products to prepare for her new addition. Much to her annoyance, Michelle couldn’t find suitable bags that were both stylish and practical.

From my own observations, diaper bags usually have cute prints on them, like they appeal to babies more than their mothers.

Michelle agreed, sharing that it was the trigger to launch her own brand, Jae Ko Designs (Jae Ko), for sleek, minimalist diaper bags that appealed to modern parents.

“Jae” is a tribute to her firstborn, Jamie, while “Ko” means “baby” in Japanese. “Baby J,” Michelle told Vulcan Post. “If there were three words to describe [the brand]it would be simple, classy and simple.

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Practically elegant

I saw the primitive years of my cousins ​​grow. As babies, their parents often carried a large backpack full of diapers, milk bottles, a hot water bottle, extra clothes, nappies, snacks, wet wipes, etc.

Although backpacks can get the job done, Michelle feels they lack the proper features of a good diaper bag.

“A good diaper bag would have all the necessary compartments and it would definitely save a lot of time because it’s more organized,” Michelle explained. For example, diaper bags should be water resistant, have insulated pockets and stroller straps.

Enough space to store all the essentials for your baby / Image credit: Jae Ko Designs

Made with PU leather, the material of Jae Ko bags was chosen because it is easier to maintain and clean. Indeed, accidents and spills inevitably happen around babies and children. “So I knew I wanted leather that I can just clean with a damp wipe,” Michelle added.

The cost can also be lower than genuine leather, making it more affordable for consumers.

Much like Tracey, another Malaysian-made bag brand we featured, compartments are central to Jae Ko’s designs for diaper bags, which took Michelle two years to design.

Learn to speak the language

With a BSc in Neuroscience from Perth and an MBA, Michelle went into R&D with no fashion design experience. All she knew at the time was that she wanted her bags to have multiple compartments.

Diving into market research, she looked at the diaper bags offered around the world and studied their trends. After many sketches, Michelle finally had a design that she could visualize as a product.

Michelle’s latest sketches for her ideal diaper bag / Image credit: Jae Ko Designs

The next hurdle came from the language barrier when looking for a good reliable manufacturer in China. While Michelle spoke a bit of “casual Malaysian-Chinese,” as she puts it, she couldn’t read or write Mandarin.

She was also adamant that manufacturers sourced quality materials for her diaper bags.

“It was a very tedious process as I had to create bag samples and prototypes with a few different companies, drive around an unfamiliar city, looking for the most compatible type of vegan leather and gold hardware” , recalls Michelle.

Although it is a long process, Michelle looks back on the experience with emotion and finds pleasure in it. Jae Ko was launched in April 2019, with seed capital of RM60K.

Integrate everything

After launching the Original 13-compartment diaper bag (RM299), Jae Ko then released a Mini version (RM200) accompanied by a Tote bag (RM312).

The Mini is suitable for mums who go on quick outings, such as a run, where they don’t have to store too many things in the bag’s 11 compartments. “They have that as an option so they don’t have to carry around a big diaper bag,” Michelle explained.

Meanwhile, the tote seems suitable for working mums, as its dimensions mean that even a 15-inch laptop can be stowed in one of its 13 compartments.

As a mother of three herself, Michelle knows what other mums would like / Image credit: Jae Ko Designs

Of course, Jae Ko isn’t the only Malaysian-made diaper bag brand on the market with more mature and modern designs. Princeton Bag is another name that carries functional and minimalist diaper bags for RM99-RM199, although they mostly adopt backpack designs reminiscent of business laptop bags.

In the end, it always comes down to customer preferences as to what types of bag designs and color palettes appeal to them.

A mini for your child / Image credit: Jae Ko Designs

To reach her target clientele of middle-to-high-income young mothers in the age range of 25 to late 30s, Jae Ko is building a community, in addition to the usual social media marketing. The online community is where the brand shares informative content about motherhood or baby care, and parenting tips, to name a few.

In the next three years, Jae Ko intends to expand its product variants, such as releasing a breast pump bag, other childcare accessories and overall products.

The team will also continuously improve the design of its core products while retailing the Jae Ko bags in stores.

Buy Jae Ko Designs products on VP Label at an exclusive price now:

  • Learn more about Jae Ko Designs here.
  • Read more stories about Malaysian startups we’ve featured here.

Featured Image Credit: Michelle Chu, Founder of Jae Ko Designs

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