Fashion Entrepreneurs: Bea Siy of Lee & Jag Jeans on Denim Trends and Strengthening E-Commerce

By Marane A. Plaza

“I feel like we missed out on a lot of sales during the pandemic lockdown because we did not have proper e-commerce yet for Lee and Jag and the rest of our brands during that time,” Bea Siy, head of e-commerce and direct selling at Lee Jeans and one of the third generation of co-owners of Lee and Jag denim brands in the Philippines, shared in a sit-down interview with STYLISH recently.

Head of e-commerce and direct selling at Lee Jeans

“So that’s what I focused on when I first came back to Manila in 2022 from California,” she said.

Bea decided to come back home to Manila to help with family business, and her first company post was as executive assistant to her dad. Right away, her father had an impactful instruction to her.

“He told us to find problems within the company, and fix it one by one. So that’s exactly what we did. I focused on strenghtening the e-commerce of our brands.”

Bea, one of the grandchildren of Ramon Siy Lai, the business tycoon who brought Jag Jeans in the Philippines back in the 1970s, has been overseeing Lee, Jag, Tribal and Zoo Yorker clothing lines in the country with her siblings.

There’s a reason she chose to focus on e-commerce. Bea had always been interested in technology even as a youngster, that’s why she decided to take up Computer Science at the Stanford University in the United States.

“I was surprised that I got in because Stanford is a prestigious institution. It is in the middle of Silicon Valley in California. And being surrounded by innovation and seeing how excited people were about it, it had been fun to create and test something so I ended up pursuing technology first instead of management.”

“My parents were encouraging me to study fine arts when I was younger, but I really wanted to study and do tech. But I think, probably what geared the three of us siblings towards business eventually was that our parents were actually not like other parents, in the sense that, they have given us a lot of freedom to explore what we want to do in life and what our interests are.”

Bea Siy on her graduation day at Stanford University in California

After her college graduation, Bea wanted to come back home and help with the family business, but decided against it. “I think it’s important to acknowledge that to become somebody’s boss, you have to have a perspective of being an employee first. So that was what I did. I went to a number of job interviews, and I ended up working in Pokemon for two and a half years. I was a full staff engineer then I had to leave the US because my visa expired, so I moved to Toronto and worked at Square for a year, then I finally went back to Manila in 2022 to help the family with the business.”

Business Mindset Since Childhood

The head of e-commerce at Lee Philippines shared some moments from her childhood that exposed her to entrepreneurship. 

“I was raised very geared towards having an entrepreneurial mindset because my parents’ role models were their parents also. My grandpa was the one who started Jag Jeans in the 1970s here in the Philippines. He got the master license in the USA since Jag has an American origin, but it was more of our homegrown brand too since we built it here in the Philippines from scratch. My grandfather was a very big businessman who handled businesses in a lot of industries, not just apparel, during that time. So he started our apparel business, but it was really my dad who grew it over the decades. So it was natural for my dad to raise us the same way, and we saw him first-hand how he worked very long hours. They built Jag, Lee and our other clothing brands from sweat, blood and tears,” she narrated.

Bea Siy, head of e-commerce and direct selling at Lee Jeans

She further shared that business has always been ingrained in them by their parents even with the most basic activities. “We’re watching cartoons together at home, but my mom would also always expose us to news about the stock market and random business interviews. It’s just kinda part of our daily lives.”

“I remember when my little brother John was around 9 years old, he lost a tooth, and ‘the tooth fairy’ gave him a popcorn machine. And the first thing he thought to do was to start selling popcorn in the office. So my dad brought my brother and I to the office, and eventually we started selling popcorn at the company’s events and some weekends.”

“I was 12 years old at that time, and he was 9. We realized how much we can earn from selling popcorn at events. We were always at Dutdutan, which was our tattoo festival every year. One weekend, our revenue would hit a couple hundred thousand, even as kids selling popcorn with just a home machine. We did that for like three years, but it was more of just for fun. So it’s kind of natural for us to be entrepreneurial.”

She studied high school at the British School Manila, which offers an internationally accredited curriculum. Then she went to pursue her technology education at Stanford.

Bea’s graduation day at British School of Manila

Digitalizing Commerce & Inventory

When she came back to help with family business in 2022 to “find problems within the company,” she naturally gravitated more toward e-commerce.

“I migrated all our online selling websites for Jag and Tribal, and I also focused on centralizing our online inventory management.”

“I think the balance of online selling platforms will give your businesses or brands safety. We need to develop strong online platforms. The advantage was being able to have the whole pipeline of the whole marketing flow straight to sales. Like when you’re shopping in Lazada or Facebook, you can link it into the checkout flow. It’s really easy to have these kinds of metrics, and also you get product feedback.”

Product Development in Fashion

Although her official post is focused on e-commerce and sales, Bea is still very much involved in all types of operations in their clothing company, such as product development and marketing.

The collections that she has been very involved with are Ivana Jeans for Jag and Lee Shape Magic Collection for Lee.

Ivana Jeans for Jag
Lee Shape Magic by Lee

“With Jag Jeans, I’ve been involved in the Ivana Jeans Line. Our inspiration are fitness and vanity, as I am so into fitness and vanity right now and ever since we developed the product concept last year. People, especially women, would like to highlight what we worked so hard for in the gym, so the Ivana Jeans line is really about accentuating the body. We would like to highlight the butt and the tummy. The items look like jeans, but they’re leggings. It’s a four-way stretch, you can stretch it over 100%,” she said.

Aside from handling Jag, Lee and Tribal with her brothers, the siblings also took over Wrangler last year. They are also overseeing the clothing line for Zoo York which they hope to expand in department stores in the upcoming year. She’s also working on the product development and production for the upcoming collection of denim dressed under Jag.

Bea is also currently working on the product development and production for the upcoming collection of denim dresses under Jag.

Aside from her sense of creativity and innovation in product development, Bea also takes pride in her feminine traits in business.

“I’m not sure if it’s women or specific to my family only, but my executive assistant role to my mommy even as a kid like when I organized things for her, booked flights and appointments, that very feminine-centric trait of organizing has developed all further skills in me. Also, one strenght of a woman in business is we are pleasant and nice to work with.”

But more than anything, this girlboss has also always cherished the biggest business lesson from her dad.

“The greatest lesson my father would always tell me when it comes to business is don’t be cheap and stingy about the quality you offer to your consumers,” she said.

“You have to give them the highest level of quality when it comes to your products, so invest in the quality of your products. That’s how you earn loyal customers that will support your brand for decades. We have had customers who have long supported our brand wherein they wear our products from the grandparents to the children then down to their grandchildren, because they love the quality of our denims or clothes.”

“Focus on product duration. Don’t be afraid to pay for quality because consumers are not afraid to pay for quality. The Philippine market is very fashion-forward. The Filipino community loves looking presentable, so they invest in fashion.”