For some fashion designers in Malaysia, their designs never leave their hometown – and their only customers are the ones who happen to pass by their roadside shop.
For those who do sell online, the experience isn’t much better. The traditional way of selling is what’s called a “blog shop”: a regular blog showcasing their apparel without any kind of shopping cart. To order, buyers have to send an email and make sure the item is still available. And since not everyone has a credit card, one common payment method is “bank-in”: you go to your bank, transfer money to the designer’s account, then send in a photo of your receipt as proof of payment. Complicated, to say the least.
“No one knows local designers here that much,” says Vivy Yusof. “There’s so much they could offer, but people … don’t have access to them.”
Yusof set about to create FashionValet with her then-fiance, Fadza Anuar, to get those designers the customers they deserve. FashionValet brings together thousands of items from designers in Malaysia, Indonesia, and Thailand, from tunics and kaftans for women to blazers for men. Bank-in is still the most popular form of payment, but they also take credit cards and PayPal.
“We’re trying to, in our little way, educate them to shop online,” says Yusof. She says that Malaysians tend restrict their online shopping to gadgets and plane tickets.
FashionValet is still a small team, taking photos of the clothing themselves and keeping inventory in stock. But Yusof and Anuar are enjoying the ride.
“It’s really different to come to work happy and really excited,” says Yusof. Even if they don’t become Asia’s fashion hub, they’ve already helped struggling Asian designers find an international audience.