Manila Fabulous: E-commerce puts Pinoy fashion on the map

Online shopping in the Philippines is rife with resellers peddling flea market finds culled from trips to Bangkok and China.

Such stores offer similar clothes and accessories, competing mostly on price. The battle for customers, then, is choosing which iteration has the best texture, craftsmanship and fit – elements that are hard to demonstrate in the digital world.

While this scene can make many a designer hold back from entering online retail, a growing number of fashion entrepreneurs have proven that e-commerce is a viable model for launching their brands.

Instead of opening a boutique to distribute their original products, footwear makers Gold Dot and Renegade Folk, and fashion accessories label OS Accessories have invested in buyer-friendly online stores.

The shops utilize a shopping cart system, as has come to be the standard today. These are now easier to achieve thanks to the rise of e-commerce tools such as Shopify and Yola, which offer brands a customizable infrastructure for a monthly fee.

Beyond the basics, businesses provide additional services for Philippine-based customers, including payment via bank transfer or free shipping nationwide.

Although these small enterprises can cater to both local and overseas clients through their own websites, they acknowledge the advantage of having other e-tailers carry their products. Karl Leuterio of Gold Dot says that being available on US-based Solestruck and Karma Loop, Taiwan-based Back to British, and Style Nanda in South Korea is key to attracting customers abroad. “Each online store [has its] own marketing strategy and services [such as] free shipping, discount codes, sales,” he said.

Apart from assistance in terms of promotion, Renegade Folk also appreciates the logistical benefits of selling through Chicify. Bea Sambalido, co-owner of Renegade Folk said, “marketing and operations are vital parts of e-commerce so being able to delegate that to other capable online retailers takes a lot off our workload.”

Moreover, fashion brands are using social media to connect with customers, with many maintaining accounts on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest. Several keep blogs to give readers a deeper look into the label’s ethos.

Aware of the influence of Web 2.0 on the business, Renegade Folk adopts all these strategies. “We realize that our customers are our partners and co-creators. [Web 2.0] allows us to have a more personal relationship with them since communication is instantaneous and more accessible,” Sambalido said.

In fact, local designers are eager to maximize opportunities from Web 2.0 in the future. Streetwear brand Proudrace, which plans to relaunch its e-commerce site early next year, wants to incorporate “a more personal and interactive way to purchase our items,” including “social curation like what is done [on] the website Pinterest.” Gold Dot, on the other hand, “would like to have online consultation for our clients.”

Physical presence still important

Even with success online, fashion ventures remain big believers in a quality product speaking for itself. Since the aforementioned texture, craftsmanship and fit are readily assessed in person, availability in brick-and-mortar stores continues to be an important part of business development.

Both Gold Dot and Renegade Folk think that traditional and digital sales hold at least equal significance in growing the brand. Gold Dot is stocked in The Ramp Trinoma, plus three boutiques in Visayas and Mindanao, while the latter can be found in The Ramp Glorietta.

Proudrace, however, feels that offering their products in the flesh is the priority. This is evident in the number of stockists it has: three in Metro Manila, plus several more in Singapore, Hong Kong, Malaysia, Japan, the US, Canada, Australia, and Switzerland.

“We always prefer physical availability because it’s still different when you get to fit and feel the clothes. For us, selling online is the complementary strategy. It’s for people who can’t get to us or to our physical stockists.”

Pinoy labels to buy online

Check out these five fashion brands, all of which are designed and manufactured in the Philippines.

sandals from renegade folk

Sandals | Photo: Renegade Folk

  1. Renegade Folk offers casual footwear, bags and pouches, with a focus on flat shoes and sandals. According to Sambalido, “our brand has been all about encouraging everyone to stay true to who they are. We found that they best way to communicate this is by offering unique, everyday sandals since flats are a staple in everyone’s wardrobe.” All products have a one-month warranty.

Wedges from Gold Dot

Wedges | Photo: Gold Dot

  1. Gold Dot started with statement shoes such as chunky heels, platforms and wedges, but now offers two other lines of footwear. Blanc consists of flats, while Gold Dot Couture is for luxe, made-to-order pairs (such as studded over-the-knee boots worn by Anne Curtis). It also has capsule collections with Tokyo-based blogger Maya Kibbel and London-based designer Malene Oddershede Bach.

Proud Race Clothing

An outfit from Proudrace | Photo: Proudrace

  1. Proudrace collections include T-shirts, tank tops, trousers, shorts, sweaters and jackets for men and women. Designs are influenced by skater, hip-hop, street art and other youth subcultures. Most pieces are in black, white or gray. The shop is currently using an order form until it is relaunched.

OS Accessories

Screenshot from the OS Accessories website

  1. OS Accessories makes necklaces, bracelets, rings, harnesses and caps out of polyurethane bone reproductions mixed with metal, leather and textiles. It provides free shipping locally and internationally except for a few product types for the latter.

Neon Island Clothing

Photo: Neon Island Website

  1. Neon Island offers women’s tank tops, T-shirts, sweaters and skirts, but surprises with its range of photo-printed clutches featuring images of the Philippines. Courier fees are added after checkout.

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