“SUSTAINABILITY” may be one of the most-heard words this year, and probably in the years to come as well. 

Many companies have started going green. Fast-food chain KFC was one of the first movers, ceasing to provide plastic straws or using plastic lids when serving drinks. The movement caught on in other joints. Even in schools, Nanyang Technological University (NTU) last month started charging for plastic bags. This meant that I had to struggle with bags of chips and drinks as I staggered back to my room from the college’s supermarket.

The fashion industry in Singapore has also felt the need to contribute to helping Mother Earth.

One such example is local lifestyle brand Source Collections, which uses custom-produced sustainable fabrics for its T-shirts. Started by Vincent Ooi in October last year, the label also packages its products in recycled paper.

Also birthed from the concept of sustainability is OnTheList, which helps luxury brands remove excess inventory by offering them at heavily discounted prices.  Delphine Lefay and Diego Dultzin Lacoste, the co-founders of the Hong Kong-based company that recently launched in Singapore, tells us how they are doing their part for the environment, and what we should look out for in this arena of sustainable fashion.

How did the idea behind OnTheList come about?

In 2015, we discovered that were few or close to no alternatives available to fashion and retail brands for disposing or redistributing past-season or excess stocks in environmentally sustainable ways, or without compromising brand value. Brands would usually opt to either burn or bury stock, or end up storing excess stock in warehouses, incurring heavy rental costs for an undetermined amount of time.

That was when we saw an opportunity to launch an independent, third-party platform that would work directly with these brands to host Flash Sales and give life to old inventory that would have otherwise been destroyed.

Fashion’s perennial problem: stacks of unsold inventory can’t just be handed out.

What was the response like?

OnTheList was the first of its kind in Asia and had successfully fulfilled a gap in the Hong Kong premium retail industry. We provided brands with the opportunity to turn old inventory into new opportunities and reach out to a new pool of potential customers, all the while saving money and doing good for the environment. We have since held over 150 flash sales in partnership with more than 250 premium brands in Hong Kong, and have recently launched in Singapore.

We provide brands with the opportunity to turn old inventory into new opportunities and reach out to a new pool of potential customers, all the while saving money and doing good for the environment.

What should we know about sustainability in fashion?

The fashion industry is one that is fast-moving and fueled by seasonal trends. To capitalize on the short-lived trends, commercial retail and fast-fashion brands are constantly producing apparel at the lowest cost possible, even if it means producing in bulk or using less-environmentally friendly materials.

As the environmental impact of the fashion industry increasingly comes under the spotlight of global watchdogs, sustainability in the fashion industry is also taking a turn and a becoming a non-negotiable seat in business considerations.

But while many commercial retailers have since pledged to make sustainable changes in their business models to reduce environmental impact in the next decades – from using sustainable materials in production, to being smarter with supply and demand models, and being more involved in helping to inform and facilitate recycling or upcycling efforts – there will still be an issue of surplus and brands opting for ways like landfilling and burning to dispose of excess stock that needs to be addressed.

What’s next?

Our goal will be to continue creating awareness around the issue of sustainability in fashion and retail, as well as to expand our operations in Singapore and take our business model to the wider Asia Pacific region. In Singapore, we will be looking at ramping up the regularity of our sales and starting to run weekly flash sales like we do in Hong Kong. We are working towards launching our online sales platform in Singapore and increasing our online offerings to cater for cross-border sales across Asia Pacific.


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Sustainable fashion in Singapore: How brands are giving life to old inventory
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