Technology has played an essential role in fashion and how it is displayed and sold to the masses in recent years. Fashion startups in Southeast Asia are on the rise, and in an effort to be more environmentally friendly, sustainable and affordable, they are bringing pre-loved fashion tech to the forefront.
In the past, many people considered second-hand clothing just for those who could not afford to purchase the latest trends. Innovative startup companies are noticing how the pre-loved fashion market is becoming a billion-dollar business globally and are implementing the practices in the ASEAN region.
Pre-loved fashion growth in APAC
People embraced technology more than before during the pandemic and lockdowns, mainly out of necessity due to movement restrictions. In APAC, one sector that benefited from the new engagement levels was the second-hand fashion industry. According to GlobalData, clothing is the most popular rental and resale category, followed by accessories and footwear in the APAC region. In its Q2 consumer survey, GlobalData found that 12% of shoppers now purchase second-hand clothing.
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Most people want to dress in high-end fashions, but with the current economic uncertainty, they are more conscious of saving money. This frugality has led many shoppers to seek out items at a lower price and purchase second-hand clothing if it is gently used. Some consumers are no longer concerned if someone sees them walking out of a second-hand store, and in most cases, they are proud to boast about the lower price they paid for a high-end item. Bargain hunting online has become almost a sport for many, especially those concerned about their spending or looking for more sustainable fashions to lessen their impact on the environment.
In 2021, American pre-loved fashion company thredUP stated in its resale static growth report that the second-hand market will likely double in the next five years, reaching $77 billion USD. GlobalData points out that resale has gained more traction, and APAC shoppers are buying second-hand clothing. It is, therefore, understandable that fashion companies, including those in Southeast Asia, want to take advantage of this growing empire. Many major retail stores have caught on to the resale and pre-loved fashion spirit, with stores like Levi’s Second Hand jumping on the bandwagon to compete with resellers worldwide.
Here are three growing startups in the region using technology to catapult pre-loved fashions into consumers’ closets.
Singaporean couple Chris Halim and Raena Lim own and operate Style Theory, a multi-billion dollar high-end clothing rental business where, for a flat fee, subscribers receive a box containing clothing and handbags each month. The startup, backed by SoftBank, has over 200,000 registered users in Singapore and Indonesia who have access to over 50,000 designer clothing items and more than 2,000 handbags for hire.
The startup’s decision to switch to a consignment-based model rather than retain the inventory in-house showed innovation. This move helped attract investors like SoftBank, Alpha JWC Ventures and Indonesian real estate company the Paradise Group, which have invested around $30 million USD in the company.
Resellers have been around for a long time, but the Indonesian company Irresistible Bazaar is a great option for seekers of authentic and gently used name-brand fashion. This platform consists of pre-loved branded vendors selling their wares online and has become an exciting getaway for fashion shoppers hunting second-hand bargains.
The bazaar began in 2015, and the company has since organised numerous events to sell pre-loved goods and items. Visitors travel domestically from Java, Semarang and Medan and even internationally from Italy, Singapore, Malaysia and India to shop for bargains.
The Malaysian online marketplace, Lokėin, sells pre-loved clothing, accessories, electronics and home furnishings, amongst other things. To ease the consumers’ online banking security concerns, the company offers a prepaid facility allowing buyers to purchase securely. This secure payment method, combined with its auction-style set-up and a money-back guarantee, helps registered users to find bargains with little risk.
In late 2019, Lokėin received $12,000 USD from Nexa Venture Capital and other angel investors to help it boost its presence just over a year after launching.
With startups in Southeast Asia recognising that this trend for second-hand clothing is here for the long-haul, pre-loved fashion tech is becoming a multi-billion USD business in the APAC region.
With the rise in social media commerce, online shopping, and the new love for vintage and gently worn fashions, vendors of second-hand items need to tap into the technology available to capitalise on this market. As funding for tech startups in the region continues to increase, the pre-loved fashion sector has an opportunity to grow sustainable, environmentally friendly businesses that sate consumers’ lust for shopping and bargain-hunting while making fast fashion a thing of the past.