Many in the tech startup community might know John Tan for backing some of the most popular names in Singapore’s startup scene: restaurant reservation site Chope, car rental site Drive.sg, popular online grocery site RedMart, and a handful of others.
Ask around and you’d quickly realize that even more recognize John for his exquisite fashion sense. Often seen around in either a bow tie or braces, you can’t possibly mistake him for anyone else. Perhaps that is why when John shared with me that he is on a mission to create his own fashion label in Singapore, it didn’t come much as a surprise, but rather, “that made sense!”
Common is boring
These days, when you walk along the streets of Singapore’s neighbourhood, finding fashion that stands out might be tough. The same goes for me: ask me anything related to fashion and i’ll probably stare blankly back at you. And there are probably many others who are happy wearing clothes that just look decent.
“Controlled Commodity was created to take a stand against the current culture of disposable fashion. We create chic, fun and modern pieces that people won’t tire of wearing every day,” shared John.
Unlike fast fashion brands, designs found on Controlled Commodity are not tied to a specific trend or a moment in time. Controlled Commodity celebrates individualism, not conformity.
“It is the wearer that breathes life into the clothing, and not the other way round.”
John’s new brand, Controlled Commodity, was officially launched about a month back, it took months preparing for the launch.
Designed in Milan, made in China, based in Singapore
At Singapore, there is a rise of online shopping sites now, with giants like Zalora, Taobao and Rakuten throwing millions of marketing budget to get more customers onto their site, not to forget the plethora of blogshops in Singapore.
To set themselves apart, John and his team decided to go through the whole process of designing, manufacturing and retailing themselves. This means absolute control over quality. The cloths are all designed in Milan, made in China while the team are based out of Singapore.
“Because we manufacture ourselves, we are able to come up with designs that are in line with our philosophy of not being tied to a specific trend or moment in time. Unlike brands that buy ready-made apparel and stick on their own label, Controlled Commodity is not limited by what is available in wholesale markets. Having our own manufacturing facility also allows us to experiment with manufacturing processes such as garment washing for vintage effect. Finally, owning the value chain increases cost efficiency, which is reflected in Controlled Commodity’s price point,” said John.
Online to Offline
Currently, Controlled Commodity is predominantly sold online via the official website, but the team understands that some customers want to touch and feel the garment before purchasing.
“We are now meeting with a few potential retailers. As we set out to be a brand that is not mass produced, we will be looking at retailers whom carry brands that have good synergies with our brand and not too mass. Definetly not going to launch in too many shops in Singapore. For now we’re looking at 1 to 3 shops.”
When asked about sales, John also told us that “it is still early days”, but the consumers seem to fancy the vintage washed tees collection available on its platform.
From the sound of it though, John isn’t too worried. There are potential customers who have also asked for different product variations from Controlled Commodity because of its uniqueness too.
“Controlled Commodity’s apparel suits a pretty wide demographic – from older teenagers who have just developed their dressing style to working individuals who know what they are looking for in quality and cut. And we are not worried about not having return customers, because every new collection we launch comes with market research, quality control and a great deal of heart.”
Nothing worthwhile is easy, especially building a brand from scratch from conceptualization, designing, manufacturing, retailing to customer service. John knows that well enough wearing his investor hat. Now that he is back wearing an entrepreneur’s hat, (and a dad’s as well as a husband’s), things are definitely exciting for John.
“It’s fun watching from the sidelines, but after a while you want to get back to playing.”