Rosie on Fire: More Than Just Kimonos

Angeline Khoo (second from right), founder of Rosie On Fire, with representatives of Generating Opportunities for Learning Disabilities (GOLD), comprising of Nalani a/p Subramaniam (most left), Jasmine Kaur (middle) and Neville Yeoh (most right), and Pearline Gan from Rosie On Fire.
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Founded by Angeline Khoo, daughter of tycoon and retail magnate Tran Sri Khoo Kay Peng and former Miss Malaysia (1969) Pauline Chai, Rosie on Fire is a conscientious clothing brand that is working on providing a conducive, empowering work place for a typically marginalised community.

What’s In a Name?

Khoo settled on the name ‘Rosie on Fire’ (ROF) when a secret admirer left her a pink cake that had a pleasantly surprising kick of chilli in it. The idea of something beautiful on the outside with something unexpected on the inside appealed to Khoo, which prompted her to name the brand Rosie on Fire. At first glance, Rosie on Fire is a clothing brand geared towards creating and selling beautiful kimonos, but the underlying desire to engage with a marginalised community is unexpected, says Khoo – so the name, like the cake, represents the essence of the brand.

Integrating Communities through Empowerment

Khoo and ROF work closely with two organisations, Magic and GOLD, to provide employment opportunities for people with autism. Khoo felt that Magic and GOLD were a good fit for ROF since both these organisations are well-established and have goof infrastructure and trainers – allowing for ROF, a growing brand, to provide end-of the line support in terms of job placement.

GOLD hosts programs that equip trainees with the relevant skills to get into the workforce while also providing assistance in terms of job placement. That’s where ROF comes in. ROF currently employs a few full-time and part-time GOLD graduates and are looking to hire more in the future, especially for parts of the business like quality control, shipping, and packing – the type of work that’s routine, repetitive, and requires keen attention to details, something that people with autism tend to excel at.

Khoo wants to provide an empowering work place that can bring an impactful change to individuals in often-marginalised communities by integrating them into the company. So launching her own brand gave Khoo the freedom to steer the company in a direction that was important to her, something that would have been terribly challenging in an already established business.

“Rosie On Fire is more than a brand to me. The heart of the company is to help people through dynamic commercial partnerships. My background has provided me opportunities not readily available to others and that’s something I take seriously. There’s a responsibility to use those opportunities to do good and my heart is to do as much for others as has been done for me. Something as simple as access to the workforce can impact someone’s life in immeasurable ways,” said Khoo.

As a relatively young company, Khoo is definitely going all out to help make a difference in the lives of individuals with autistism in Malaysia. Such philanthropic effort ensures that these individuals don’t receive just one-time help, but rather, get a lifelong boost of assistance. It’s certainly reassuring to know that there are businesses being built on the foundation of empowerment and being inclusive. It’s a philosophy that, if adopted by more people and companies, would surely help bring about the kind of paradigm shift in society that we desperately need.

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