Direct fashion

  • TECH
  • Sunday, 11 Dec 2016

Belgian-French duo Bernard Seys (left) and Lou-Adrien Fabre created, a tech startup which connects over 40 artisans with buyers from around the world. — efaisto

Fashion should be personal, and branded items are anything but personal. So how do you get top quality products and not find a million people wearing the same thing?

You customise.

With that idea in mind Belgian-French duo Bernard Seys and Lou-Adrien Fabre created, a tech startup which connects over 40 artisans with buyers from around the world.

Based in Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam the website carries customisable shirts, shoes, bags and wallets lines. Buyers can pick the material, colour, detail and size that fits their taste, make their orders and receive the handmade products a few weeks later.

Initially, Fabre (an app and website developer) and Seys (a former project manager for a Belgian chocolate factory) who are based in Vietnam, went door-to-door to meet artisans to convince them to join the website.

Now, makers can apply online to sell their products on, but have to undergo a stringent profile screening before they are featured on the website.

“This is part of the brand building process. This is when we take pictures of the artisans’ team, their products, the workshop, and record a video and an interview that will be used to market their online shop,” said Seys in an e-mail interview. Once the makers have passed the product quality check and the profile screenings, they are ready to start selling on the website.

“Each artisan has access and control over their online workshop. Through its interface they can set up their products, their prices, the options they want to offer, see customers feedback and of course access their orders. The order summary is also accessible to customers, so that they can see the full instructions that are sent to their craftsman,” said Fabre.

The team ensures that there is proper communication between the customers and the makers to avoid anything from getting lost in translation.

“We spent a lot of resources building a two-sided interface that allows the customers to customise products as they desire and for the artisans to understand them. We do it through a one-of-a kind interface that automatically translates the requirements of consumers (user-centric) for the makers (producer-centric), regardless of the language of both parties. Also our dedicated sales team consists of fluent Vietnamese, French and English speakers which allows close communication with the makers throughout the entire order process. If the maker has any questions about the order, we contact the customer directly to ensure they get the product exactly how they want it. We call ourselves ‘connectors’,” said Seys.

Efaisto strives to be transparent in its business model. The artisans set the price of the product and always get paid exactly what they want. “A fee is added top of this to run our business. When customers view a product on our website, they can see how much of their money will go to the maker, and how much to us. We did this to bring more transparency to an industry which often hides hefty margins and opaque manufacturing practices,” he added.

When the artisans set up the prices on the platform, the system will show them a feedback loop displaying the final price of the product for the users, as well as the prices of similar items already on the website.

“This self-regulating method is a safety net. However most makers have a very clear idea of what their talents are worth and they know how to manage prices across different sales channels. Basic rules of commerce have been around for longer than we have. We simply rely on them,” Seys said.

Fabre stated that establishing trust between customers around the world to buy custom-made products from the artisans was initially a challenge.

“We followed several strategies to tackle this. First, we use standard e-commerce trust practices (visible refund policy, clear shipping policy, payment encryption). Then we also rely on a top-notch customer service coupled with a down-to-earth communication strategy in order for people to feel as though they are speaking to a friend.”

The team also had to ensure that customers’ privacy is protected at all times, and uses secure industry encryption standards to store information.

“We don’t store critical information (like credit card details), but instead rely on services specialising in critical data storage like PayPal, Braintree and more,” he added.

For a website that focuses on artisanal products, there is still the threat of trademark infringement by its group of makers, and the founders are prepared for any eventualities.

“We haven’t faced this issue yet. People buying on Efaisto want unique products, made just for them. They also value the personal touch of the artisan. They don’t want to show off a brand or a design, but they value the story of how the bag was made,” said Fabre. “We would not be the first website to face the possible infringement challenge. We may face this issue in the future, of course, and we would make sure international laws are respected.”

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