How e-commerce is helping new fashion designers jumpstart their businesses

A digital presence is key for the region’s designers to overcome the cost and stress of their entrepreneurial journey

After graduating from university, my cousin was looking for ways to supplement her income while she hunted for a job. She started out arranging flowers and organising children’s birthday parties for her acquaintances – and her friends loved it. Soon, it blossomed into an event planning business and a floral boutique that catered exclusively to children's parties and small events.

But when business was slow, especially around Ramadan and in the summer, she had to think of another service to keep the cash flowing. With piles of furniture and props at home, she started to offer a furniture rental service.

My cousin uploaded professional photographs of her stock on to her website and started a dedicated Instagram page for rentals. She also used Instagram advertisements and promoted her page to a targeted audience. The business was immensely successful and sales soared. Most of her profit now came from renting furniture as opposed to organising events. As her business expanded, she leased a space to store her growing collection of furniture.

Just like my cousin, an online presence, especially on Instagram, has helped numerous young fashion designers from around the region to grow their businesses at a lower cost. Instagram-targeted advertisements have also helped them reach new audiences. E-commerce platforms, such as the UAE-based Ounass, are also helping to put regional designers on the fashion map.

But one UAE-based e-commerce venture is taking it a step further by equipping new and established fashion businesses with everything a fashion start-up would need.

Founded in 2018, Boksha’s website and mobile app features more than 800 boutiques and 15,000 products, including abayas, kaftans, dresses and accessories. Think of it as Netflix for regional fashion designers. Ninety per cent of the designers showcased on the platform are UAE-based female designers between the ages of 18 to 35.

But what sets Boksha apart from other e-commerce fashion websites is its 360-degree service offerings: it provides designers with everything from customer service to photoshoots of their products, deliveries and even access to events.

Customers also benefit by having access to hundreds of designers and thousands of products in the one place and do not have to worry about the hassle of contacting individual designers.

Photoshoots, building a website and investing in customer service can prove expensive for new designers. But the rise of e-commerce platforms like Boksha can help to reduce the stress and costs they face during the early stages of their entrepreneurial journey.

Over the past 11 years, it has been easier for designers to establish a fashion business compared with the past, when a higher investment was required to start a company. This deterred many from pursuing their dreams.

Here are a few pointers fashion designers should keep in mind to achieve growth online:

Set up your digital presence. The first place potential customers will search for you is most likely to be on social media. Platforms like Instagram can help you to set up your Instagram shop. Ensure that your page includes high-quality images of your products, product details, your address and the best way(s) your customer can reach you.

Familiarise yourself with digital advertisements. You can boost your page with as little as $5 a day with a targeted post. Over the years, a small investment in advertising has helped my clients reach a wider audience.

Last but not least, approach e-commerce platforms to feature your work.

E-commerce penetration in the fashion industry is expected to reach 50 per cent by this year’s end, according to Statista. It has never been easier for regional fashion designers to establish their digital presence – and success can be just one click away.

Manar Al Hinai is an award-winning Emirati journalist and entrepreneur who manages her marketing and communications company in Abu Dhabi.

Updated: October 17th 2021, 3:30 AM