Starting your own fashion line is a daunting prospect, hence the term ‘fashionpreneur’ being coined.
You’ve got all the challenges of starting a business coupled with the added stress of designing clothing that you hope people would wear.
As a designer herself, Yap Sue Yii understands this struggle, which is why she started a crowdfunding platform for aspiring fashion designers, Royale Demure (RD), in 2017.
Vulcan Post caught up with her and learned about how she aims to help her fellow fashionistas get a foothold in this highly competitive scene.
“It all started with an idea to bridge young aspiring fashion designers with a platform that would enable them to create and bring their fashion designs to life, and at almost no cost,” Sue Yii said.
For an RM200 processing fee, designers can submit ‘design campaigns’ to the platform.
Each campaign would be a single proposed clothing design, which the community pledges funds to, in support of it.
Designs that have garnered at least 30 pledges before the campaign’s closing date are considered successful. They are sent for manufacturing, and the finished products are delivered exclusively to pledgers.
Once a successful campaign is over, the design will no longer be made, making each one a limited edition.
For each piece sold, designers earn cash royalties, which can total around RM500 to RM2,000 per campaign, depending on the prices of their designs.
If a campaign fails, pledgers will be refunded 100% of their pledge amount.
From a sketch comes sample pieces, which are sent to designers for review before the campaign is launched. Of course, the pieces are also checked before they are delivered to customers.
Since the production of the pieces is handled by RD themselves, if a campaign turns out to be a scam or disappears, pledgers can still expect to receive the pieces they backed.
It’s a pretty standard crowdfunding model, Sue Yii admits, but she believes that the concept is still foreign for many Malaysians, despite its proven success.
“Kickstarter, an American based platform is extremely successful at bringing projects to life. And through crowdfunding, many individuals or companies have also been able to realise their creations and showcase their products to the public,” she said.
This is why she believes people who lack resources can realise their projects through crowdfunding, where they can prove to the world that their ideas are worth the investment.
Going a step further, RD also provides the services of a fashion production house, so that designers can focus on their designs, marketing and customer feedback.
These services include the aforementioned manufacturing, as well as design consultation, modelling and photoshoots.
She’s not doing this alone; besides the RD team, there’s also her co-founder Gan Tech Hooi, former Group COO of Poney and a qualified accountant who strengthens RD’s operations, supply chain and finances.
Successful campaigns are showcased on the site via a ‘Featured Designers’ page.
She told us that the one thing they all had in common was starting from the ground up, which means facing the challenges of being a fashionpreneur.
“As fresh graduates, and not knowing what the real world is like, these designers decided to take on the road less travelled and started their own brands,” she shared.
“Knowing that the industry is competitive and difficult to stand out, they were still up for the challenge to create a name for themselves.”
Anyone, even fresh grads, can apply for the platform, as long as they are involved in the fashion industry.
However, RD does make it a point to discourage ad hoc designers who intend to use the platform short-term.
“The public needs to learn how to trust the brand and also the crowdfunding site, and for a new brand to pop-up and disappear after one campaign, especially with no effort to promote their own design, it is not something we encourage,” Sue Yii explained.
This is because most brands are not immediate successes, and it takes time for brand names to catch on, she added.
Regardless, if the design is good enough, there will always be a buyer or pledger.
“This is the magic of the platform, the successful campaigns are usually the ones which appeal most to the crowd. And for the designers, those who listen and adapt, they are the ones who cater to the market the quickest and tend to have more successful campaigns,” she said.
Sue Yii feels that this is the very reason why she created the platform: for designers to not only sell their designs, but to also listen to what customers are saying.
“The perfect fit for supply and demand,” as she calls it.
Helping Themselves By Helping Others
RD has spent RM200,000 on building the platform, mainly on the website and marketing, with 50 successfully funded campaigns to show for it.
Sue Yii shared that RD is still trying to prove that their concept works, having only made minimum revenue due to having to pay designers and tailors.
“The main challenge is operations, such as sourcing factories to make garments in small quantities. And to overcome that, we managed to create and build our own community of tailors, all of whom are home based and within the B40 category,” she explained.
These handpicked B40s include Komuniti Tukang Jahit, an organisation founded by RD to train the underprivileged in sewing so that they can secure income.
They were also one of the organisers of a recent fashion show under Selangor Modest Fashion, an initiative backed by the Selangor state government, Invest Selangor, and the Selangor Royal Family, to provide fashion aspirants in the state with an avenue to showcase their work.
This is in line with RD’s ambition of building a business where they can provide fashion business solutions such as consultations and fashion events.
- You can read more about what we’ve written on fashion here.
Featured Image Credit: Royale Demure Blog