Going into Vivy Yusof’s new book, the thing I was the most curious to read about was the closure of FashionValet.
Throughout the years, Vivy has been a big proponent of uplifting local brands. So, when Malaysians learnt that FashionValet, her fashion ecommerce platform that featured many Malaysian designers, was closing down, some were surprised.
On top of the closure, the entrepreneur was turning her attention to her in-house brands, dUCk and LILIT. To certain netizens, this came off as her possibly turning her back on other local brands in favour of her own.
But are there any grounds at all for those speculations?
Before we can understand why she decided to proceed with dUCk and close down her fashion platform, though, we must first understand how dUCk got its start in the first place.
And through Vivy Yusof’s book, “The First Decade: My Journey from Blogger to Entrepreneur”, we are able to do just that.
The problem with supply
In the beginning, FashionValet only functioned as a platform that curated designs from local fashion designers, not a site with its in-house brands.
But with Zalora joining the scene and offering competitive consignment rates and deals with brands, FashionValet soon found itself dealing with supply issues.
“We had some good buyers at FashionValet, but even then, the stock problem was one that could never be solved,” Vivy wrote. “And I realised over the years that it wasn’t their fault. It’s not them that was the flaw, it was the whole business model.”
This was because FashionValet couldn’t dictate what the third-party suppliers would do. Technically, the team could’ve sued suppliers who breached their contracts, but that would end up burning bridges, something Vivy didn’t want to do.
“Instead of waiting for their stock to arrive, which may or may not happen, we needed to be proactive instead of reactive,” Vivy decided.
Thus, the team started to do exclusive collections whereby designers would design specifically for FashionValet. This meant FashionValet would be controlling the quantities from the brands.
Instead of being those brands’ stockists, FashionValet became clients with custom orders.
It worked for a while, but even that model had its issues too. FashionValet’s cash flow had to take a hit as they were buying in bulk. Some brands also had high minimum order quantities, too. So, if the collection did not sell, it would put FashionValet in a lot of financial stress.
Due to that, at one point, the FashionValet team decided to look into wholesale malls in order to take control of their own supply.
“It wasn’t part of the plan, but it was a survival response,” Vivy wrote.
As such, FashionValet experimented with selling clothes bought wholesale through in-house brands for a while. Then they realised the designs would oftentimes clash with other brands they carried.
The overlap became too frequent that the team decided to stop the wholesale method, though Vivy shared that it was good while it lasted. Plus, it would soon thrust them into producing their own clothes for their in-house brands—dUCk included.
A brand with a personal story
Although there’s a practical reason for the rise of in-house brands for FashionValet, there’s also a more personal reason behind the founding of dUCk.
It might come as a surprise to some, but Vivy didn’t use to wear the hijab or modest clothing. Growing up, wearing a hijab was, in Vivy’s own words, the last thing on her mind.
“I told my mom I’d cover up after I graduated, just to soothe her,” she wrote. “Graduation, engagement, wedding… still no hijab.”
But everything changed after she gave birth to her first son, Daniel.
“It’s true when they say God will open your heart whenever He feels like it,” she mused.
Yet, she found that the transition to headscarves could be “unwelcoming” and even “intimidating”, as she would get comments on Instagram telling her she wasn’t wearing the hijab properly.
She also shared that her journey of familiarising herself with hijabs didn’t feel celebratory or special, even though it was a monumental step for her.
“There’s gotta be a better way, one that makes women feel celebrated when they hit this personal milestone,” she said to herself.
This line of thinking would become dUCk’s DNA, and perhaps what made it the hit that it was.
You can’t have the cake and eat it too
When FashionValet closed to focus on dUCk and LILIT., the group had explained that it was because of the profitability of the business, as marketplaces operate on thin or even negative margins.
According to Vivy’s book, dUCk was what kept FashionValet alive, as it was financially subsidising the platform.
Malls would want to offer lots for dUCk, but not FashionValet. People would know Vivy as the “scarf girl” instead of the “FashionValet girl”.
It was clear that dUCk had outgrown FashionValet, but Vivy wasn’t ready to give up on the fashion ecommerce platform for a while.
“We laid so much importance on FashionValet and always being fair to other local brands that we totally suppressed dUCk’s potential,” she wrote. “dUCk constantly had to give in to FashionValet, and it was so silly because dUCk is literally owned by the FashionValet Group!”
Eventually, after seeking advice from other entrepreneurs and mentors, Vivy and her team finally made the leap to shut down FashionValet and pivot to focus on her in-house brands, which included LILIT. and dUCk.
And here we are today
The decision to pivot seems to have come in 2019. Vivy revealed that in the subsequent two years (2020 and 2021), FV Group brought in a whopping total of 200 new team members.
Rather than just pivoting the focus onto in-house brands, Vivy also pivoted the group’s culture as well as her own leadership style.
Instead of being a hands-on leader, she realised she had to be a strategic leader instead in order to scale the company.
Vivy made it clear in her book that the decision to close down FashionValet did not come easily. The platform took up a decade of her life, and was the start of her entrepreneurial journey.
And though it has now shut down, its legacy will be survived by FV Group’s other ventures.
- Read our spoiler-free review of The First Decade: My Journey from Blogger to Entrepreneur here.
- Read other articles we’ve written about Vivy Yusof here.
Featured Image Credit: dUCk / FashionValet