When Liu Min launched her brand “Ms MIN” on the e-commerce platform Taobao, many people asked her the logic behind choosing to open a store on the internet despite being an independent designer in London.
After striving for years to establish her brand, the fashion designer from the city of Xiamen, east China’s Fujian Province, is determined to stick with her choice. Like many other designers, she interacts with customers online garnering more ideas for her original design.
Prior to starting her business on Taobao, Liu however did have her concerns.
“I kept thinking if online retailers are supposed to cater to the public? Is online business against independent designing?” Liu recalled.
Initially, Liu had a small team and she had to be a fitting model herself. But thanks to customer feedbacks, Liu managed to improve her design.
“I read the comments regularly and integrate their ideas into my designs. It is important to learn from them,” Liu said. “For example, in terms of modifying waist styles of the attires, customers provide a lot of suggestions on the platform. They are willing to share their experience with you and offer valuable advice.”
Liu is amongst a bunch of fashion designers looking for new development prospects on the internet. Statistics show there are more than 2,000 fashion brands on Tmall, the online marketplace under Alibaba Group.
Online stores provide a free space for fashion designers allowing them to control, sell and experiment with their designs, Liu noted.
“When the works of designers withstand the test of the market, they can grow into fashion brands faster,” Liu said. “The internet brought my work to the public eye. I would have never been able to do it without the help of the internet.”
Liu has recently opened a brick-and-mortar store in Shanghai while maintaining her online store.
“I suppose it is a great strategy to run both stores,” Liu said. “The two stores are complementary to each other. Online customers can visit the offline store for a real experience, while the offline customers can also become potential online buyers.”
Liu Xiaolu, another fashion designer in Xiamen, worked the other way around. She first launched a retail outlet of her fashion brand “Deepmoss,” before taking the business online. Liu Xiaolu said she believes the online store was one of the fastest ways to establish her distribution channels.
“Nowadays, customers walk into a buyer’s shop and when they fancy something, they subconsciously look for it online,” she said. “My designs have literally reached all potential customers across the country thanks to the internet,” she said, adding that her brand is very popular in northwest China’s Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region.
It takes a long time for designers to grow mature and the road is full of uncertainties, but the online space makes it possible for them to reach success, said Guo Xiaohua, with the School of Film, Television and Communication, Xiamen University of Technology.
“Young designers live in the internet era, and they are used to communicating with customers online before, during and post designing,” Guo said, noting that the internet is the main arena for the young designers to test their products, and for customers to buy their products.
Fashion critic Tang Shuang said that in recent years, the public has attached more importance to distinctive fashion products of independent designers, rather than luxury brands and fast fashion.
“To some extent, the internet has freed local designers from their localities and allowed their works to reach the national market. Through online communication, their brands are getting closer to customers,” Tang said.
XINHUA | XIAMEN