updated 4 Aug 2013, 15:06
Login password
Tue, Jul 02, 2013
The New Paper
Email Print Decrease text size Increase text size
Confessions of a blogshop owner: We never wear same outfit twice
by Benita Aw Yeong

She's no celebrity, but Miss Joyce Ng was once so pressured to look good in public that she found herself reluctant to go out.

"In the past, I was comfortable heading to town without putting any make-up on. But these days I feel compelled to dress up when I step out of the house. It can be kind of stressful," she says with a laugh.

Miss Ng owns The Tinsel Rack, one of a growing number of online blogshops here, which sell clothes and accessories online.

The 24-year-old, who also has a blog, Twitter and Instagram accounts, confesses that she is sometimes recognised on the streets, which can be embarrassing.

"There was once I quarrelled with my boyfriend near an escalator at Vivo City, only to have someone tweet me when I got back home saying they spotted me there looking very unhappy," she says.

"From then on, I decided - no more quarrelling in public!"

On another occasion, she received a $5 discount while buying cupcakes, because the girl selling them was a fan of her shop's clothes.

Just yesterday, more than 100 shop owners gathered at St James Power Station for a blogshop festival - believed to be one of the largest flea markets here - to offer their wares.

The cheap and fashionable clothing, often modelled by local pretty faces, have become popular among secondary school students and corporate executives.

"These days, blogshops - especially those which manufacture their own designs - become a brand of their own, which leads to them having their own following," she says.

Miss Ng, who claims she was a wallflower in school, says she had complete strangers inviting her to be their project group mates after the business gained recognition.

"I'm not quite sure what they thought I could offer.

In fact, sometimes I was more a liability because I was so busy with the business," she says.

But there are other perks to running your own clothing business: An endless supply of new clothes.

Miss Ng and her younger sister Jolene, 22, who also manages the online store, say they never wear the same outfit twice.

"Our mum always complains about our bursting wardrobe, but we just tell her it's part of the job," she says cheekily.

The elder Miss Ng launched her business in 2009 with a base capital of $5,000 with a friend, who later made an exit because she had no time to manage it.

Business did not really take off until a year after they started, she adds.

These days, The Tinsel Rack is managed by the sisters and three full-time employees. In very good months, it can rake in up to $50,000.

According to free blogging platform Live- Journal, blogshops in Singapore account for $96 million, or 6 per cent, of the $1.6 billion local e-commerce sales in 2011, said a report published in December that year.

But money doesn't come easily, Miss Ng insists.

When the business started, customers had to order items by leaving comments on their blog page.

The girls then had to send individual e-mails as invoices, then verify the payments after they had been made.

"It was a tedious process, which could start at about 10pm and end only at about 5am. There would be times we didn't have dinner or even visit the toilet," she jokes, adding that their boyfriends are used to being neglected.

Competition has become stiffer since she started the business, due to the low start-up cost and demand for cheap clothes.

"We have to constantly be thinking of ways to differentiate ourselves, which include coming up with new ideas for our photo shoots.

"After all, the photos are the stuff that sell our clothes," she says.

For an Alice in Wonderland-themed shoot, the sisters spent three full days drawing and cutting out props by hand, which included a large clock, mushrooms and poker cards.

"We were aching all over the next day, it was exhausting," she says.

Unreasonable customers are also par for the course, they say matter-of-factly.

Memorable incidents include a customer who blamed them for not receiving her parcel because she forgot to include her unit number.

"She said we should have checked. But how would we know?! She could be living in landed property. Plus we have to take care of so many orders a day," she exclaims.

Other customers who get her goat are those who cut the garments deliberately, then ask for a refund or a new piece claiming that they received a defective product.

"It was quite obvious that the tears were made using a pair of scissors because they are so clean and deep. But what can we do? We usually accede to their request, since we're in the service line," she says with a shrug.

Still, there are aspects of the job which keep her going, such as seeing her clothes worn by ordinary women on the streets.

"Other times, customers write to us to say that they're enjoying our service and the clothes. These messages make our day."

And if you think women are her only customers, you'd be wrong.

"We get male buyers who camp in front of their computers for our launches, just to surprise their girlfriends.

"We tell them it's very sweet," says the younger Miss Ng with a chuckle.

Secrets of the trade

1. Trust your own judgment. You will get customers asking you to manufacture shorter dresses or longer tops. You can't please everyone.

2. Put up motivational posters which say "Keep calm and carry on" around your office. It helps when you are about to explode reading e-mails from unreasonable customers.

3. Keep your personal wardrobe from bursting by selling the clothes you've worn only once to loyal customers. The practice is quite common and the "pre-loved" items go to perfectly willing customers. It helps to rake in extra cash too.


Get The New Paper for more stories.

readers' comments

Copyright © 2013 Singapore Press Holdings Ltd. Co. Regn. No. 198402868E. All rights reserved.