Are you an online clothes shopaholic? Looking through dazzling collections of goods, do you place orders on seemingly cheap goods without even thinking, only to find that you have bought the wrong size or a low-quality product once again?
Founders of two enterprises that started out selling clothes – GetMore’s Bo-kai Wen and WILDGREEN’s Kun-chung Shue – talk to us about a new type of fashion business philosophy.
GetMore utilises technology to create “second-hand fashion” based on the sharing economy
Can we use the internet to change the way we will live in the future? When Bo-kai Wen saw how internet entrepreneurs from all over the world were using the sharing economy model to solve social problems, he shifted from his original job as an engineer at Hsinchu Science and Industrial Park to start a business online himself. It was in this way that GetMore, a fashion sharing platform based on the concept of the sharing economy and that gives a new meaning to second-hand clothing, was born.
Bo-kai Wen explained, “Using the internet, GetMore facilitates Peer-to-Peer Business between individuals. It is not just the clothes themselves that are traded, but also the behaviour of ‘sharing fashion’ itself.” GetMore uncovers fashionistas from all over the world, sharing their fashion tastes on its platform. Under a brand consignment model, second-hand boutique items are subject to a third-party professional washing and ironing service before being centrally dispatched from GetMore. In this way, the quality of second-hand clothes is guaranteed and customers feel able to trust in their purchases. Furthermore, GetMore has also recruited independent fashion designers from Taiwan, Hong Kong and Singapore, so that consumers are able to directly buy unique fashion items from designers.
Bo-kai Wen cites the concept of Collaborative Consumption put forward by the founder of CCLab, Rachel Botsman, in a TED talk: “people are realizing the power of technology to unlock the idling capacity and value of all kinds of assets, from skills to spaces to material possessions, in ways and on a scale never possible before.”
He believes that we are experiencing a change in our consumption patterns in this era as a result of internet technology. People have gone from being passive consumers and active creators to synergistic collaborators. The “sharing economy” symbolises the emergence of new economic behaviour. The trust that is established on the internet has gone from the first wave, when most information exchanges consisted of unilateral receiving, to the second wave, when people became willing to upload important data to websites. Today, the rise of Airbnb and Uber signals the third wave of trust, allowing service providers and consumers to establish a foundation of trust between them via online sharing platforms.
It was in the third wave of trust that Bo-kai Wen found GetMore’s business direction: an ingenious second-hand clothes consignment online service to help second-hand clothes find new owners and to create “second-hand fashion” value.
Bo-kai Wen has said that the internet will continue to change people’s way of life. He encourages entrepreneurs to keep this in mind and to find a business model that belongs to Taiwan. “We need to form local culture, and then export it to the whole world.” By reflecting on consumer shopping habits and national customs, we can find a mode of operation for online businesses of the future.
WILDGREEN, making us rethink the value of a piece of clothing
Different from what most people think of as fashionable, WILDGREEN wants to convey the idea of green clothing according to the three main goals of “promoting green life, practicing green consumption and supporting local industry”. The clothing material it uses is quality assured to be 100% organic cotton – non-genetically modified cotton grown in fields which have not been sprayed with fertilisers in three years.
When speaking about the purpose of his business, founder Kun-chung Shue quoted a sentence from Japanese author Naoki Shiomi’s Lifestyle of Half Farmer and Half X: “There must be a life which is not constrained by time and money, which makes a return to human nature; there must be a life in which one can make a contribution to society at the same time as being oneself.”
Holding this attitude to life made Kun-chung Shue move from an electronics company to the internet to start promoting organic cotton. “Can you imagine how much exploitation and how many external costs there are behind and within cheap clothing? I think people need to rethink the value of a piece of clothing.”
Kun-chung Shue started by setting up stalls at farmers markets in Taichung, Hsinchu and Taipei, hoping to make face to face contact with consumers to promote environmentally friendly organic cotton. Having seen the environmental problems caused by the garment dyeing process, Kun-chung Shue said, “Few people emphasise the environmental friendliness of clothing because the association between clothing and the environment is little known. Therefore, we need to promote green principles of “no bleaching, no dyeing” in order to reduce the environmental damage caused by the chemical substances used on clothing.”
In the beginning, WILDGREEN did not so much use the internet to make sales, instead just hoping it could use the online space to convey its ideas. “The internet is lacking a bit of human touch,” said Kun-chung Shue with a smile.
However, later, he found that if he manually processed the back-end work related to online orders, he not only increased the opportunities for communication with consumers by relying on correspondence, but could also prevent consumers from engaging in impulsive buying behaviour. “Because all of the consumers who buy our products have already made up their minds, we have almost no problems with returns.”
Kun-chung Shue laughingly said, “We are set up to destroy ourselves. If consumers choose environmentally friendly organic cotton and no longer ignore quality because they are only considering price, then we will not need to exist!” Whether it is the “second-hand fashion” created by GetMore or the green fashion promoted by WILDGREEN, these two enterprises make us rethink the fashions that we all follow. In the past, consumers often made low price or clothing style their priority considerations, not knowing that, at the same time as sacrificing quality, they were destroying the environment and wasting resources. Another way of putting it is “spending more money buying fewer clothes”. If we change our shopping habits, then we can all become advocates of environmental friendliness!