Diego & Delphine Talk Fashion Flash Sales on OnTheList

Elevator Pitch: Founders Diego & Delphine On HK Flash Sales, ‘OnTheList'

In recent years, consumers and enthusiasts of fashion have become more environmentally conscious shoppers, whether through thrifting, upcycling, or investing in long-lasting ethically sourced items. With the fashion industry rushing into the sustainability conversation, younger generations and millenials are moving away from fast-fashion practices and looking to shop at more planet-friendly establishments.

According to a study by Zalando, there is a disorienting disconnect between what consumers say they want from brands and how they behave. For example, the study shows 60% of consumers claim that transparency is important to them, but only 20% percent seek information during the purchasing process. This reveals a gap between how consumers wish to shop, and how the industry is equipping their desired shopping experience.

This opportunity was not lost on French husband and wife duo, Diego Dultzin Lacoste and Delphine Lefay; founders of members-only fashion flash sale showroom, OnTheList. Now in their seventh year of operation, OnTheList offers past-season fashion items at discounted prices from well-known brands.

Old inventory from brands such as Michael Kors, Vans, Snidel, Joyce, among others, turn into opportunities for shoppers, while also preventing never-before-worn items from reaching landfills. The Beat Asia spoke to Diego and Delphine about their venture, how they were inspired to start the brand, and what lessons they’ve learned along the way.

Elevator Pitch: Founders Diego & Delphine On HK Flash Sales, ‘OnTheList' 1

What’s your ‘backstory’? What led you to build a brand around Fashion Flash Sales?   

After recognising the vast amount of waste produced by the fashion industry, together with consumers’ high frequency in disposal of clothing in Hong Kong, we felt compelled to make positive steps towards a more sustainable industry. Our response was to establish OnTheList, an unconventional business model grounded on flash sales open to members only. [We sell] past-season merchandise at discounted prices, creating an opportunity out of old inventory. 

We emphasize the notions of community and exclusivity where everyone is required to register as a member to be “OnTheList” for our in-store and online flash sales. We believed that Hongkongers’ fascination towards fashion brands would [lead them to] be drawn to flash sales with unbeatable discounts, and we have proven the success of this business concept.

Elevator Pitch: Founders Diego & Delphine On HK Flash Sales, ‘OnTheList' 2

Who is OnTheList's clientele? 

Promoting a circular economy whilst creating value for our members has always been our mission. Anyone who enjoys shopping with the best deals is intrigued by the constantly refreshed selection of international brands across multi categories can become an OnTheList member. Our stock is updated every week or even every 3-4 days.

What pain point is OnTheList out to solve in the fashion industry?

We witnessed the significant amount of waste generated by retail, which often ends up in incinerators and landfills, not to mention part of the waste is unworn clothing contributed by consumers. Here, we found a niche in the market where resources should be reused for as long as possible.

We started reaching out to brand partners in order to take positive steps towards a more sustainable fashion industry. This aligns with our two main objectives at OnTheList - to reduce waste by minimising brands' unsold inventory and to create new business opportunities through a circular economy.

Elevator Pitch: Founders Diego & Delphine On HK Flash Sales, ‘OnTheList' 3

Can you share a story about a mistake you made starting OnTheList? What lessons did you take away from this?   

The first sale we had back in January 2016, our IT system crashed. We had to manually check the invitations at the entrance and at the cashiers. We tried our best to apologise, explaining the reasons and we did it [by] thanking everyone for their patience. We tried to keep respectful, transparent, and [say it] with a smile which seemed to work, as many came back for the second sale!

The main lesson is that [when] we organise events, we aim for the highest level of execution, unfortunately we face unexpected circumstances (typhoons, trucks burning!, COVID-19 affecting a large part of the team, etc.). We need to be agile, and most importantly, communicate to all the stakeholders; internally to the team, to our brand partners, and to OnTheList Members.

Elevator Pitch: Founders Diego & Delphine On HK Flash Sales, ‘OnTheList' 4

Who have been some of your biggest inspirations or mentors? Can you share a time when they made an impact or helped you with the direction of the OnTheList?   

Frederic Mugnier & Coco Chanel.

Fred is the co-founder of Faguo, a French brand that plants a tree each time they sell a product. [It was the] first job (for Delphine) where I learned the foundation of entrepreneurship. Fred told us, “Start OnTheList ASAP, don’t be afraid to be copied, listen to all the feedback, keep improving day after day and never forget your values!”

Chanel is a fantastic brand, but above all Mademoiselle Chanel was a true entrepreneur in a context where it was very hard for a young woman, especially one without a network, to succeed. Her panache and boldness was incredible. As she used to say, “In order to be remembered, you need to be different”. With a strong team spirit, ideas circulate faster within departments, and innovation can happen!

Elevator Pitch: Founders Diego & Delphine On HK Flash Sales, ‘OnTheList' 5

Can you share three best pieces of advice that you’ve collected throughout your career and why they matter to you. 

1. Make mistakes faster and learn from them faster. At the heart of our business philosophy lies the belief that we must "make mistakes faster." By recognising and learning from our mistakes, we can constantly improve the customer experience and enhance our services.

2. An agile mindset. Many consumers shifted towards online shopping for a wide variety of products during the COVID-19 pandemic, resulting in decreased foot traffic in brick-and-mortar stores. As a response, we intensified the focus on online opportunities and actively improved OnTheList’s e-commerce website to offer customers a seamless shopping experience. This required the adoption of an agile mindset, a crucial trait for any entrepreneur. 

3. Don’t be afraid to share your idea with people around you. It is empowering to engage in discussions about your ideas with as many as possible, because you can gather valuable feedback and unexpected insight. Eventually, you can refine your ideas to make them even better.

Elevator Pitch: Founders Diego & Delphine On HK Flash Sales, ‘OnTheList' 7

How are you planning to shake things up next? 

Looking at AI with fascination, on how to be more efficient in all what we do. Planning (allocate the right inventory to the right channel), CRM (invite the exact number of members interested by this brand), Customer Service (reply faster to all the requests from our members), IT (to develop more tools allowing business expansion)!

And we can’t wait to open OnTheList Thailand (happening very soon), and we will keep expanding the six markets where we are established (Hong Kong, Shanghai, Singapore, South Korea, Australia & Malaysia).

Enjoyed this article? Check out our previous Elevator Pitch profiles here.

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