As fashion and tech begin to intertwine, we are seeing more and more platforms entering the market, seeking to make it easier for users to buy and engage with fashion, and of course discover new and interesting labels and designers. One of the first companies to ever do this in Australia was fashion technology company Young Republic, which was part of the 2012 Startmate accelerator programme.
Young Republic, which seems to be on a hiatus based on the site’s homepage and lack of social media activity since October last year, enabled users to discover up-and-coming fashion designers and buy their clothing. It was a little bit like Etsy as the marketplace was two-sided and designers were able to join the platform to sell their designs easily.
Recently, a Perth based startup, Clique Arcade, founded by brother-sister duo Ross and Storm Wyness, entered the market. Clique Arcade has a more curated approach and focuses solely on emerging Australian designers.
But there is one key difference between this startup and others currently attempting to play in the space – Clique Arcade goes a step beyond just giving emerging designers a place to be discovered and have their products purchased. It acts as an end-to-end marketing platform for these brands, building awareness through content marketing and other activities to help them develop a strong following.
“We are building a multi-vendor platform that is geared to support the independent Australian fashion community,” says Ross. “First and foremost, it is an online marketplace platform; secondly, designers sell their [fashion items] on it. A couple of months ago, we started rolling out a publishing platform for freelance authors, journalists and bloggers who write about fashion to actually publish and talk about the brands and the community around us.”
Storm comes from a fashion background; she has her own label, which she started about a year and a half before launching Clique Arcade with her brother. Prior to that, she was working in public relations for emerging labels and boutiques, a solid background in supporting the ‘smaller guys’ in the industry. Ross, on the other hand, comes from a marketing and branding background, having worked with Redbull Energy Drink from a strategic marketing perspective. It was when he and Storm were sitting down to do some marketing work on her label that their startup idea emerged; they realised what was missing for designers.
Building the platform has been no walk in the park. It was especially hard early on to get brands on board.
“I guess many hadn’t really been involved in a marketplace or multi-vendor platform, and so we had to establish ourselves,” says Ross. “It’s has been a really hard slog. It’s a case of building slowly and doing a lot of networking. We have a good network here in Perth, which we were able to leverage off in the early days. Then it was a case of really building a database of our own and identifying the labels and calibre of labels that we wanted on board.”
When Clique Arcade went live, it represented 20 labels on the platform. Last Thursday, the startup signed on its 100th, so the tides are turning and emerging designers are beginning to seek them out.
The business model for Clique Arcade is quite straight forward; the startup takes a clip-of-the-ticket on all sales made on the platform. For brands, this is low risk. The Wyness siblings believe there are too many people out there trying to take money off small emerging brands that can not afford it, often driving them into the ground. Clique Arcade also has no inventory to handle with all the brands doing their own drop shipping, keeping the startup’s costs low.
In regards to scalability, while the startup only supports Australian designers, users are able to purchase products from the platform globally.
Clique Arcade has been bootstrapped to date, however the founders have been exploring a couple of options when it comes to raising capital. Venture capital and equity crowdfunding are both front-running options, and the Wyness siblings intend to make their decision around this strategy in the upcoming months.
“Right now, we’re really focused on creating a community around Australian fashion,” says Ross. “We’re providing a place for these labels to sell and for people to seek out something different and unique. In addition to that, via our marketing features and service, we are helping drive conversations about the emerging designers through the publishing platform and other avenues that showcase Australian fashion.”
By the end of the year, the startup aims to have 200 brands on the platform.
“Range is such an important thing in the online environment,” says Storm. “Establishing ourselves in Australia and really driving the awareness of fashion locally is a key focus, but promoting Australian fashion into places like South East Asia, the US and UK is going to be just as important [from a commercial perspective].”
Clique Arcade could easily be mistaken for another ecommerce store selling niche fashion. However, given its focus on technology and marketing automation, I think people that are sceptical of the startup’s potential may be in for quite a surprise over the coming 12 months.
Featured image: Ross and Storm Wyness. Source: Provided