Business Food Lifestyle

12 Brands You Didn’t Know Were Actually Malaysian

Life is full of surprises. One minute you’re taking a snoozer, then your evil 4-year-old nephew chooses to fly like he’s in Neverland ON TOP OF your belly. One day you think the hot barrista from that hipster café has the hots for you because you caught her winking non-stop over your coffee, then you find out it’s just the pinkeye.

Just when you think you’ve maxed out your quota of surprises a full-grown person can handle in a year, you find out that San Francisco Coffee is not from San Francisco after all. Say vaaaat? Sorry bro but it’s true that your fancy foreign kopi is actually an original Malaysian brand…… Surprise!!!

Here are 12 brands you might have probably thought were from some exotic faraway land but in truth are from good ol’ Malaysia.

1. Lewré

Two words – Peng. San.

Everyone knows Jimmy Choo is Malaysian but maybe you wouldn’t have guessed outright that Lewré is Malaysian… (maybe coz it’s missing a Choo or Tan or Wong?) Lewré was actually created by a Lew – Datuk Lewré Lew. Since it was launched in 1997, the brand has become much sought after by celebs and royalty. And now his designs are all over the world.

Image from Malaysian Digest

Dato Lewré Lew looks Malaysian enough. Image from Malaysian Digest

Here’s an interesting tidbit – Jimmy Choo is his mentor! “I am very lucky that my sifu, Datuk Jimmy generously shared his knowledge and contacts with me. Working with him has brought me to another level and has given me a better understanding about how a brand is built,” he remarked. Whenever he’s in London he spends time at Choo’s studio to sharpen his craft.

Shoes are very important for everyone, in particular ladies’ high heels. I had no idea until I put in the effort to learn more about feet. Shoes are so important as they hold your feet and carry you everywhere.” – Datuk Lewré Lew, The Star

2. San Francisco Coffee

Image from My Deal

Just the thing for crappy mornings. Image from My Deal

Are we 110% sure about this? Why not ask Google Maps. Oh mystical and mighty Google Maps – *sprinkles magic dust around* – is San Francisco Coffee from San Francisco at all?

Screen cap from Google Maps

From Frisco, your nearest San Francisco Coffee cafe is… 17 hours and 30 minutes away?! Screen cap from Google Maps

Yep that about answers our question. Thank you mystical and magical Google Maps.

But wait here’s a story most of you probably don’t know. There was once an American who lived in San Francisco for a time. He loved it so much there that when he decided to set up a café business in Malaysia in 1997, he named it San Francisco Coffee. It began as a single café and understood absolutely how important it is for every morning beast to get their fix before they start breathing fire over everybody.

The coffee establishment is now owned by Lyndarahim Ventures Sdn. Bhd. under Datuk Abdul Rahim Zin. It has grown to over 33 outlets within the Klang Valley, Marketing Manager Nik Azwaa told CILISOS.

3. BONIA (and Sembonia and Carlo Rino)

Hmmm why would anyone guess Bonia is probably like from Italy? Hmmm could be the Italiano-sounding names of its flagship and sister labels: BONIA, Pizza, Sembonia, Pasta, Carlo Rino, Aglio Olio, Super Mario, etc. Or maybe it’s just Italian inspired.

BONIA, The Italian Inspiration. Screencap from

BONIA, The Italian Inspiration. Screencap from

But in truth the brand is from spoiler: Malaysia Malaysia.

BONIA Corporation Berhad was founded in 1974 by Group Executive Chairman S.S. Chiang. In 1977 he visited the Leather Trade Fair in Bologna, Italy where he was inspired by the artwork of 16th century sculptor, Giambologna.

From this

Depictions of ham sap, otherwise known as art. Giambologna's 'Architettura'. Image from Wikimedia

Depictions of ham sap, otherwise known as art. Giambologna’s ‘Architettura’. Image from Wikimedia

To this

Image from Bonia's Facebook page

From the men’s AW14/15 collection. Image from Bonia’s Facebook page

Additionally, the Group holds the license to distribute these other brands – Santa Barbara Polo & Racquet Club, Austin Reed, Valentino Rudy, Jeep, The Savile Row Company, Braun Buffel, Pierre Cardin, Bruno Magli, Enrico Coveri, Renoma Café Gallery and Renoma.

4. The Manhattan FISH MARKET

Image from Groupon

Image from Groupon

Show of hands and wave, how many of you would have guessed The Manhattan FISH MARKET is from Manhattan? You just embarrassed yourself in public if you are reading this in public la.

Though the restaurant was inspired by the famous 180-year-old Fulton Fish Market, its founders (and best buds) George Ang and Dr. Jeffrey Goh are super proud of their Malaysian identity. “When we opened The Manhattan Fish Market in Singapore, there was no escaping the cynicism and derisiveness but we managed to deflect the negativity once the disbelievers saw how our outlet reeled in the crowd night after night,” said Jeffrey. Suck it Singi.

Guys, you might want to turn on Safe Search for this next pic.

Grilled Flaming Lobster Platter. Image from The Manhattan FISH MARKET

Grilled Flaming Lobster Platter. Image from The Manhattan FISH MARKET

Meanwhile there was a dispute between the restaurant and Fish & Co. which you can read more about here. To demonstrate to you in seafood form what the fight (did not) looked like…

“People are always surprised when they discover The Manhattan Fish Market is a Malaysian brand. What amazes them more is how well we have performed within such a short span of time,” George Ang, The Star

5. 1901 Hot Dog

La-la-la-la-la-la not listeniiiiiing.

Don’t be in denial la. We know with a name like 1901 Hot Dog, customers would conjure up images of late 19th century America (before it became Murica), men in top hats and ladies carrying parasols…. HAD they stuck with their old logo. Remember this logo?

Image from buddyfication

1901 Hot Dog’s old logo. Image from buddyfication.

But NINETEEN O One Sdn. Bhd. had a complete makeover in 2007 because the company had big plans to expand to a halal market in the Middle East and other Asian countries. Some pretty hot-doggity changes were made to outlets, positioning, products, logo and target market.

And so we got this logo now.

1901 new logo. Image from Franchise Malaysia

1901 Hot Dog’s new logo. Image from Franchise Malaysia.

For you nostalgic few who find it hard to accept change – yes even to the point of mourning a retired logo – let’s just say that 1901’s founders thought long and hard before saying good-bye to their iconic little dude in the suit and straw hat. Read what Co-founder Zakir Jaafar had to say about it.

Let’s backtrack a bit to the history of 1901. Zakir and Tengku Rozidar Tengku Zainol Abidin initiated their chain in 1997 and named it 1901 based on the story of how the ‘hot dog’ came about. In 1901 at the New York Polo Grounds, vendors were hawking hot dogs, shouting “They’re red hot! Get your dachshund  sausages while they’re red hot!” New York Journal sports cartoonist Tad Dorgan drew a cartoon of barking dachshund sausages in warm rolls, but not knowing how to spell ‘dachshund’ he wrote ‘hot dog’. So the hot dog was born.

6. Gardenia

Image from youbeli

Image from youbeli

So you thought Gardenia was an American brand? Well the recipe and the face behind it may have been, but here’s how it went.

In 1969, Horatio ‘Sye’ Slocumm from Atlanta, US, travelled to East Malaysia, sent by the International Executive Service Corporation (IESC) to start a bakery. Gardenia Food Industries was established in Kota Kinabalu, Sabah by its founder Datuk Wong Tze Fatt with Slocumm’s bakery knowhow and Jim Humphries’ creamery experience. Until today, ‘Uncle Slocumm’s orignal recipe’ is still carried on the labels of its bread, Gardenia Bakeries KL’s Marcomm Department told CILISOS. Even the one in Singapore, which is a completely separate business entity.

Breaded cat. Image from Eric Adamshick on Flickr

How NOT to use a slice of Gardenia bread. Image from Eric Adamshick on Flickr.

Did you guys know you can go on a FREE factory tour? The Bread Time Story Tour shows you how all the treats and ends with some refreshment as well. Ha, ha, your eyes are probably perking up right now!

7. Fipper

Fipper's Comfort range. Image from Fipper

Fipper’s Comfort range. Image from Fipper

Harrr? Fipper as in Feel The Rubber? Yes the very one.

We thought it might have hailed from the same places that produced Roxy, Havaianas, iPANEMA or some other sunkissed country like that. Ermm, OK la Malaysia is sunkissed but we sorta had California on our minds.

Jack Lim founded the brand in 2008. The slippers are priced at only RM13 to RM23 a pair and made of Thai rubber hence the little elephant logo. They can be found at a lot of places including petrol stations, hotels and convenience stores so in case the pair you’re wearing breaks, you can easily pick on up at these places.

Also you can use it to slap someone annoying or experiment with it for the buttered toast phenomenon to see whether it lands sole or strap-side down.

8. Beryl’s

The Camior range is from Beryl's! Image from Beryl's Chocolate

The Camior range is from Beryl’s! Image from Beryl’s Chocolate

Beryl. What a sweet, classic name for a baby girl. To us it’s a feminine name of Sanskrit origin which means clear or pale precious stone. To geologists, beryl is a mineral composed of beryllium aluminium cyclosilicate with the chemical formula Be3Al2(SiO3). So uhmm, if your name is Beryl and you’re looking for a cool alternative to sign your initials, you can go with Be3!

Beryl’s Chocolate and Confectionary was established in 1995. Crafted using cocoa beans from Ghana, it has over 70 types of chocolates including durian and chilli flavours. In fact the durian flavour has a bigger fanbase in Taiwan than in Malaysia itself!

Image from Beryl's Chocolate on Facebook

Image from Beryl’s Chocolate on Facebook

If you’ve always wished you could be Charlie Bucket and take a trip around a chocolate factory, now you can. Beryl’s will give you a grand tour if you ask really nicely (ie. call to make an appointment). They can organise the tour in English, Malay, Mandarin or Cantonse.

9. Vochelle

Because once is not enough when it comes to chocolate, we have another Malaysian chocolate brand to share with you.

Image from Maestro Swiss Group

Image from Maestro Swiss Group

In old-skool block bars or covernut dragee form, Vochelle seeks to promote locally-made chocolates to the world. Vochelle is distributed by the Maestro Swiss Group which isn’t from Switzerland at all. And they proudly profess their Malaysian roots (under ‘Company Values’. Kalau under ‘Company Values’, pastilah benar).

Incidentally Maestro Swiss also manufactures Vico which everyone surely recognises as Malaysian.

Map from Maestro Swiss Group

All routes lead back to good old Malaysia. Map from Maestro Swiss Group


‘Ogawa’, meaning ‘stream’ in Japanese was used to create the brand’s concept of ‘starting from a river source and emerging at the end mighty as the ocean’. Wah, can write Chinese romantic fiction with this title. First you might think that the brand originated from Japan (abuden). Summore got Canto-star endorsing it leh…

Wong Lee Keong and Lim Poh Khian (Malaysians) built the brand in 1996 (Malaysia) so today, we (Malaysians) have this to thank them for.

Smart Aire Plus 3D Zero Gravity Massage Chair. Image from OGAWA

Ahhhhhhhhhh. Smart Aire Plus 3D Zero Gravity Massage Chair. Image from OGAWA

How to make full use of your OGAWA massage chair? Let’s take a cue from Joey and Chandler.

11. British India

Image from EshiQa Honey Savannah Ranjan on Coroflot

Image from EshiQa Honey Savannah Ranjan on Coroflot

WHAT?! No way! With a name like British India, you might have been forgiven if you had thought the brand was from either:

But the brand, presented as “an era of racism, oppression, injustice and nice outfits,” by Yasmin Ahmad – for an advertising campaign duh, not out of spite – is absolutely Malaysian.

Yasmin Ahmad. Image from uhcseas on Flickr

Wrong occasion but right expression (and hand gesture) for the advertising campaign that Yasmin created for British India. Read it below. Image from uhcseas on Flickr

Yasmin worked on the tongue-in-cheek tagline for her good friend Pat Liew who is the founder of the fashion label. Read about how her hard work has paid off all these years here. In one of her anecdotes, Pat detailed difficult times too like in 2009 when Suria KLCC wanted to relocate the outlet to a less fabulous location. Fighting hard to keep her place but settling it very amicably, Pat managed to stay put in her prime location.

“It’s not just about having prime space for international brands, but also to showcase ‘Made in Malaysia’. I am Malaysian,” she expressed in The Star’s article. You tell it, Pat!



It’s the BUFORI GENEVA! Ermagerd… even for someone who knows zilch about cars. Image from BUFORI

OMG just look at those hot rods! It would have been more believable if someone told you the car drove right out of a 1930s gangster movie rather than out of…………… Kepong?!!! BUFORI cars inspired by 1930s American coupes are hand-crafted in Kepong, KL! According to the brand, “THIS is one of the few places in the world where skilled craftsmen with a tradition of painstaking handwork can be found in great number.” *Snaps imaginary suspenders against chest proudly*

Originally, it was started by 3 Australian Lebanese brothers – Anthony, George and Gerry Khouri – in Australia. But in 1998 they moved full production to Kepong under Bufori Motor Car Company (M) Sdn. Bhd. So yes, that’s full operations moved HERE and craftsmenship from the good people of Malaysia. BUFORI stands for


To get your hands on one of these show-offable cars there’s no such thing as a waiting list. From placing your order until final shipping you’ll have to wait about 4 to 6 months but it makes the day you get to take it home all the sweeter we’re sure. Here’s a review on the BUFORI La JOYA (La JOYA = ‘The Jewel’ in Spanish).

Wazzup with this obsession for international brands?

Yeah why? Why are Malaysians so obsessed with things that had to cross borders, oceans, mountains, streams, meadows, longkangs to be sold over here?

In reply to someone. Comment from Low Yat Forum

The Federation of Malaysian Consumers Associations confirmed this stating that instead of buying cheaper in-house brands, consumers opt for branded items that are usually more expensive.

But all those brands mentioned above could totally trump the perception that overseas is better any day and at probably half the price to boot. Malaysians are capable of producing global standard stuff. Just look at the Khouri brothers who chose to operate BUFORI in Malaysia because of the talent here. And what about Cheong Choon Ng, Malaysian-born creator of the Rainbow Loom who, according to The Mirror, is worth GBP80 million (RM420 million) today!

In spite of all this, there are some elements that point to a changing tide. CEOs, bosses and top guns like Pat Liew who’s very proud of bringing her Malaysian brand, British India to an international market. And buddies George Ang and Jeffrey Goh who pwned the Singaporeans when their first Manhattan FISH MARKET on the island was a hit. Even Datuk Jimmy Choo declared his pride of being a Malaysian. He explained that while it was important to promote international brands, it was equally important for local designers to be given adequate support.

So 3 cheers for us. Hip-hip-hurrah. Pats on the back. Pop the champagne. Kthnxbai.


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  1. Pingback: Malaysia: How Much Do You Know About Our Local Food Brand? | Vbid Extra

  2. Simon

    02/12/2014 at 8:39 am

    Lebensstil with a German Address and German Sounding Name and European models and pictures (check out the website) is actually a brand born in Malaysia too. NO mention of Malaysian roots even in the about us section.

  3. suet

    29/10/2014 at 6:56 pm

    What was the fuss all about ? I think the article is good and impactful.

    • New Jo-Lyn

      30/10/2014 at 4:03 pm

      Thanks Suet! Much appreciated 🙂

  4. Malachi ver 2.0

    20/10/2014 at 3:48 pm

    Hi Constant Malachi, would you like me to contact Oxford Dictionary to issue you a medal for your gr8 grammer? I could if you really wanted

    You seem to be a very nice and caring person, based on your care shown but I some how don’t quite believe that you’re some how true in being caring. As one of the reader in Cilisos, I enjoy reading their articles. So, please do keep your out-spoken yet shallow comments to yourself cause it’s not making you look any brighter than you are now. Enuf said

    Btw, did you know that Dragon-i and Canton-i are from m’sia?

    • Constant Malachi

      20/10/2014 at 9:00 pm


      Sarcasm is not a good sign of maturity either friend. It is hard to not come off as an asshole on the internet that’s for sure. Please point out which part of my comment is shallow? This seems pretty baseless to me.

      I merely stated how I felt about the article, but you came out to attack my personality. Out spoken and shallow? indeed. Please refrain from the internet, you have clearly missed the point.

      Also, please do ‘contact’ Oxford Dictionary, I would very much like to know if it’s a he or she. Good day.

    • Chak Onn Lau

      22/10/2014 at 4:07 pm

      Hi Malachi,

      We appreciate your comments, and more so that you care enough to let us know. To me, personally, the phrase was really okay, and it seems, to alot of our readers as well. Just so you know, I’m also what you might call a ‘ruthless but caring editor’, to which i’m sure Jo-Lyn will attest.

      So I guess what i’m saying is, we thank you for caring, but in this instance, our judgement call is that the language is fine 🙂

      Mala V2 and Turtles, Jo-Lyn is grateful for your defense 🙂

      And everyone, if can, just try to be respectful to each other k? We do want y’all to express yourselves, but try to avoid personal attacks. kthxbai!

    • turtlesallthewaydown

      20/10/2014 at 11:29 pm

      Malachi ver 2.0, i think you just got your ass handed back to you lol. as self righteous that constant malachi person is, he is actually voicing opinion on article, grammer and not the writer personally and quite respectful even if sounded angry. you on the other hand…face-palm. hahah.

  5. GardeniaSG

    19/10/2014 at 10:42 pm

    The first Gardenia commercial bakery was started in March 1983 at Pandan Loop, SINGAPORE. The main

    this was AFTER the SIngapore-Malaysia separation. Gardenia Malaysia is owned by QAF Ltd, the same parent company of Gardenia Singapore, based in Singapore.

    Thus, Gardenia is definitely not Malaysian.

    Contact us @ [email protected]

    • im in singapore right now. you people arent to bad.

      20/10/2014 at 12:35 am

      Kiasu Singapore … So typical.

    • BolahBoy

      27/10/2014 at 12:49 pm

      Ok How come you represent a brand yet your English is so bad?

  6. Andrew

    19/10/2014 at 5:37 pm

    You missed out my favourites? D=
    Padini (Vincci, SEED, and everything else under it)
    Brands Outlet
    Big Apple Donuts
    Juice Works

    And no, Bata (and its subsidiaries, Bubblegummers, Power, North Star) is not Malaysian, it’s from (founded in) Czechoslovakia.

    • New Jo-Lyn

      22/10/2014 at 9:48 pm

      Hi Andrew,

      Yup, Bata isn’t Malaysian. In fact, we once came across an old black & white WWII documentary on YouTube and saw a Bata store in the background! It was priceless! If we can find the video again, we’ll share it you. Thanks for your comment. 🙂

    • Perisik

      13/03/2015 at 12:32 am

      what? Bata isn’t from Malaysia..sight~ that shoes…is..very..legend… really miss my school time..

  7. shams

    19/10/2014 at 12:21 pm

    why they tax their own people. you have to spend rm20 to get a coffee at SF

  8. januarywinter

    19/10/2014 at 6:41 am

    Very excited to know more brands… sammy! We are waiting 20 brands from your side!

  9. darsinjj

    18/10/2014 at 11:47 pm

    So if they all home grown, local and made in Malaysia, why hell they ain’t charging local prices for their stuff..

  10. Helena

    18/10/2014 at 2:15 pm

    Cool! I knew some of these but it’s a fun article to read – and I like the sneaky asides which made me laugh. I also like the way you link bits of the article to related links.

    Keep writing the way you do – it’s your site – people who don’t like it can just not read it – but you know lah how some people like to criticize, even though they can’t do it properly themselves. So sibuk! 🙂

    • New Jo-Lyn

      18/10/2014 at 5:17 pm

      Hi Helena,

      Thanks for your support! 😀

      Really glad you enjoyed the article and even gladder that you get it. 😉

    • Constant Malachi

      18/10/2014 at 8:16 pm

      ‘people who don’t like it can just not read it’ – on the contrary. i kinda sorta like Cilisos. And how does one deduce that an article is crap without reading it first?

      Ignoring constructive criticism is dangerous, but encouraging incompetence is worse. I’ll be the first to tell you that I am not writing this from the vantage point of a high horse – as I, like New Jo-Lyn here am also a writer, under a ruthless but caring editor.

      I was crap, but now less so, because of some tough love. I don’t doubt that you did in fact enjoy the article, i’m pretty sure many did. But is it also important to nurture proper prose and diction. I know it’s Manglish, and I’m no purist (lah), but here it just sounds so desperate, stretched, to a point where sentences just fall apart and i fail to grasp its meaning.

      I rant because I care. End of story. Stop assuming, and allow proper critique and discussion. Do not f–k up the culture.

  11. LA

    18/10/2014 at 1:47 pm

    I tough everyone know gardenia is from Malaysia?

  12. Ezra Limm

    18/10/2014 at 11:52 am

    The england is powderful enough.

    No harm using colloquials this is a tabloid style article. I get the vibe that English is the author’s mother tongue. Not like some obviously chinese to english or malay to english text you find from malaysian authors.

    • New Jo-Lyn

      18/10/2014 at 5:33 pm

      Hi Ezra,

      You totally get it! Thanks man! Also how’d you know English was my mother tongue? Was it obvious enough in the article? 😀

      PS: I used to get so many lemons for not being able to speak Mandarin. But then I made lemonade lorrr.

  13. Teik Inn

    18/10/2014 at 10:23 am

    Loved the article! Didn’t know that half these companies were Malaysian!!

    btw – did you know that Crabtree and Evelyn are Malaysian too.

    • New Jo-Lyn

      18/10/2014 at 5:35 pm

      Hi Teik Inn,

      Haha, so glad you enjoyed reading it.

  14. [email protected]

    18/10/2014 at 9:26 am

    Sorry guys, didn’t quite get the jokes of bad grammar here. I think it is pretty decent.

  15. niko

    18/10/2014 at 7:41 am

    Bad writing? This is hilarious! I couldn’t stop laughing. More please!

  16. Aero

    18/10/2014 at 7:03 am

    When I first discovered, it wasn’t anything special in my eyes. Just another blog turned fun fact / trivia pseudo-website, or so I thought. But over the months and years,, like these 12 companies listed, has grown to become something genuinely impressive and inspiring to its peers.

    Keep up the great work admins ! :]

  17. Storymank2vin

    18/10/2014 at 6:51 am

    Thanks for sharing. Some are quite suprising!

  18. Sammy656369

    18/10/2014 at 1:21 am

    Seriously do you really think most M’sian don’t know about this yet? Besides, I can list down another 20 more brands!

    Bad writing – very unprofessional!

    • cjy cjy

      18/10/2014 at 1:29 am

      Waiting for you to list the other 20 brands.

    • Lydia Kwan

      18/10/2014 at 10:00 am

      Hiya! On the contrary, people have been pretty surprised (check out the shares on our FB page) and we always believe that what we know might not be what someone else knows. We’d love to hear more about the brands you know… Perhaps we could do a Part 2 with credits to you? Buzz at [email protected] (We’re serious!!!) As for our writing, we know it’s not for everyone but we respect your thoughts on it. 🙂

      Thanks for your comment!

  19. Constant Malachi

    17/10/2014 at 11:55 pm

    The premise of the article is all well and good, but the grammar is terrible. Whoever your editor is, he/she is doing a terrible job.

    “Guys, you might want to turn on safe search for this next pic?”

    If taken out of context, it works perfectly fine – do you really know how safe search works? It’s like telling a dude, “better use a condom, because your wife is about to give birth.”

    Guys, this is terrible.

    • Lydia Kwan

      18/10/2014 at 9:47 am

      Hiya! We give as much space as we can to the writer to craft their own articles, including their own brand of humour (unless if it’s like horrific dead baby jokes and all). In this case we see as an exaggerated comment, but we understand where you’re coming from. Nice analogy btw. Thanks for your comment nonetheless, it’s definitely something to think about in our future posts. 🙂

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