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Business Advice

'Facebook of fashion' comes into style

Social networking site Clozette provides space for people to share ideas
The Straits Times - January 25, 2012
By: Joyce Teo
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'Facebook of fashion' comes into style Mr Roger Yuen -- ST PHOTO: SEAH KWANG PENG

REUNIONS of old colleagues usually involve lots of reminiscing over drinks but occasionally they spark bold new ventures as the founders of online fashion social networking site Clozette demonstrate.

The get-together in 2010 included Mr Chua Chiang Meng, Ms Kersie Koh, Ms Cheryl Tan and their old boss, Mr Roger Yuen, when they worked at online tech magazine CNet Networks.

Mr Yuen had just quit a senior job at tech firm Acer and was exploring several ideas, including an online business.

Things quickly fell into place and Clozette was started early last year, initially being run out of the attic of Ms Koh's home before moving into an office about six months ago.

Bricks and mortar do not figure in the set-up, rather it provides a platform for people to share their fashion and beauty ideas, and has an online shop.

Clozette is 'like a Facebook of fashion', says Mr Yuen. 'We wanted to do a regional website and we decided to focus on women. We picked fashion because it is something that transcends all these barriers, in language, culture or geography.'

Its platform is necessarily very visually driven. 'It's a place where you can share everything, talk about shopping, exchange or sell what is in your closet,' explains Ms Koh, a co-founder and the creative director. 'It's about people sharing visual stuff of what they want to buy.'

When Clozette started, the founders were busy drawing in users through word of mouth, engaging fashion bloggers, seeding in blogs, running contests where users were invited to share their postings with friends and through online marketing programmes. 'We are now very focused on building the community. We call it the Disneyland of fashion. There's a degree of voyeurism and you can ask for opinions,' says Mr Yuen.

The site, which draws about 90,000 visitors a month, appears to have clicked with advertisers. Well-known brands such as Thomas Sabo, Calvin Klein Jeans and Van Cleef & Arpels have used the platform to reach consumers.

'I am very familiar with the interactive space and I know what advertisers are looking at. Through my experience with Brandtology, I could see the rise of social media,' says Mr Yuen.

In 2000, he co-founded e-Cop, a 24/7 security surveillance firm acquired in 2007 by a wholly owned subsidiary of Temasek Holdings.

His partner Eddie Chau then went on to start an online brand intelligence firm Brandtology, which Mr Yuen invested in.

'As with most things when you start out, the product always evolves. When you start to execute, then you start to look at what works and what doesn't.'

Clozette's business model is different from usual content websites. 'There's deep engagement with the users, which allows us to mine behavioural traits to generate insights for the brands to better understand the consumer,' he says.

One of its recent advertising campaigns was for a new mall in Penang called Gurney Paragon. Clozette had asked users to select the brands they wanted to see and how they would market the mall. Three contest winners will get a trip for two to Penang.

'We are getting insights into what shoppers want, getting the brand awareness. They collect e-mails and the information helps them to market themselves to prospective tenants,' says Mr Yuen.

By the end of this year, Clozette expects to report sales of 'a little under $2 million' and to break even by next year, he says. About 60 per cent of its expenses go towards staff costs. It employs 13 people here, including sales and technical staff such as Web developers. And it has sales staff in Malaysia, Indonesia and the Philippines.

Advertising fees can range from a few hundred dollars for a banner to $150,000 from a client, depending on the complexity and duration of the campaign.

Last April, Clozette attracted a seed round of $1.5 million, with venture capital firm Walden International the main investor. It also grabbed the attention of top online media firm Glam Media, which chose Clozette as its technology partner and publisher to help spearhead its push into South-east Asia.

'Until now, we still go knocking on doors. About 30 per cent of my time is spent travelling to meet agencies and clients,' says Mr Yuen. 'Because our business model is very new, it takes us a while to explain it to others. People want to put you in a slot, even advertisers. They will ask if we are a magazine.'

He says: 'I dream that in a few years, the business can be worth $300 million. However, the driving force is really making Clozette a household name among women, and if that happens, the business worth will be there naturally.'

 

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