10 Updates

How I Did It: From International Fashion Model to Founder of a Top Fashion Startup in Asia

Apr 30 2014, 10:40pm CDT | by

Lisa Crosswhite is the Founder and Director of online fashion retailer, Gnossem.com , and is regarded as one of Singapore’s style icons. Crosswhite initially built Gnossem after realizing that...

Filed under: news

 
 
 

12 weeks ago

How I Did It: From International Fashion Model to Founder of a Top Fashion Startup in Asia

Apr 30 2014, 10:40pm CDT | by

Lisa Crosswhite is the Founder and Director of online fashion retailer, Gnossem.com , and is regarded as one of Singapore’s style icons.

Crosswhite initially built Gnossem after realizing that professionals in Asia-Pacific were increasingly turning to online shopping, yet were nevertheless worried about purchasing something they had not yet felt or seen in person. A supporter of independent designer fashion, Gnossem has evolved into a formidable platform that provides users with access to unique independent labels, without having to travel the world over for the designer’s one boutique.

Crosswhite has since appeared in Singapore’s top fashion magazines for her style advice, and has made Louis Vuitton’s “Top Ten Most Stylish Women of 2012″ list as published in STYLE: magazine, among other annual “Best Dressed” lists in Singapore. Her support for “niche fashion” has led her to speak at the TEDx Talks in Hong Kong. Prior to Gnossem, Crosswhite worked as a Brand Strategist at Ogilvy & Mather as well as an International Fashion Model.

I spoke with Crosswhite to learn more about her unique journey through the fashion world and what obstacles she overcame in launching one of Asia’s top online fashion retailers.

Tiffany PhamWhat inspired your move from being an international fashion model for luxury brands, such as BALLY and Ports 1961, to ultimately founding Gnossem.com?

Lisa Crosswhite: Modeling across Asia opened up my world to the many designers in the region that are high quality, and critically acclaimed in their home cities, but too small to be known abroad. I always knew I’d end up in fashion, but wasn’t sure in what long-term capacity. Building relationships with designers of different locales seemed like a natural extension of my passion and curiosity at the time, but ended up seeding the idea to build a solution to the problem of inaccessibility when it comes to niche, high quality independent fashion. I saw a category of fashion that had so much potential and demand, but was being held back by an inability to widely reach customers. The idea for Gnossem actually came while I was researching online shopping behaviour for a client, Estee Lauder, at my past job as a strategist at Ogilvy & Mather Singapore. The idea to focus on independent fashion, for my future online store, was deeply rooted in my experiences engaging with these designers when I was still modeling.

Pham: What was your plan of action once you decided to launch your own company?

Crosswhite: My plan of action for the development of Gnossem, was to first test my hypothesis that independent fashion could build strong traction in a developed cosmopolitan market, while building the foundations for an eCommerce platform and Retail Brand that could eventually be worthy of worldwide appreciation. After a beta market, the plan was to launch in a top online retail market, such as the US, as our first stop for worldwide expansion.

Singapore proved a natural testing zone, with its 50:50 ratio of foreigners to locals, sophisticated business environment, and prevalence of modern working women with high disposable incomes. Its regarded as a prime place for an expat to live in Asia, due to the fact that its predominantly English-speaking, growing at a dazzling pace, and as culturally diverse as New York. I also liked that Singapore was small. With 5 million people, it was the right size to run a contained test, and get quick feedback from our countless iterations in the development process.

Pham: What were some of the tactics you used to get Gnossem off the ground fast, and have it be named one of the top online retailers by Women’s Weekly and Harper’s BAZAAR within 6 months of going live?

Crosswhite: We grew fast, and gained critical acclaim through very solid product curation and earnest story-telling. It certainly wasn’t a generous marketing budget. We’ve been covered 70 times in Singapore since going live, with our PR department comprised of myself and my marketing colleague. And we don’t spend on press. The with our product selection, and sharing our story with industry folks that we knew would get (almost) as excited as we were about it.

For people who love fashion, it doesn’t take long to notice that Gnossem is more than just another fashion eCommerce startup. I built a brand that my team and I could really stand behind; and its led to firm support from Singapore’s fashion community as well as benevolent collaborations with established ‘big sisters’ such as Anthropologie (Gnossem-curated collection launching later this year), Maserati of Manhattan (sponsored our pop-up fashion event in New York this past spring), Antipodium (flew in to co-host a Gnossem-exclusive launch in Singapore), and more. In short, we’re doing what we should be doing; and getting the right people to notice it.

Pham: What were some of the personal and professional challenges you faced, once you transitioned to founder?

Crosswhite: The biggest challenges I faced in founding a company were more personal than professional. I really welcomed the additional workload and still do. It’s hard to complain about professional challenges… maybe because there’s been so many of them, that I’ve just habituated to a high level of problem solving all the time.

The greatest struggle for me was actually coming to an equilibrium with what my body could physically handle in terms of work hours, how to communicate and manage my team on a frugal budget and keep them motivated, and how to prioritise the essential parts of my personal life./>/>

My first year working on Gnossem, I ended up in the ER 3 times due to bland things such as fainting and dehydration. It took awhile to find the right lifestyle that both maintained a high level of productivity, but also generated wellbeing in my life overall. The Rat Race Culture glorifies constantly being busy and overwhelmed; and I soon realised that to sustain in developing Gnossem over the long-run, I couldn’t get away with ignoring my health, spirit, and emotions.

A bit personal maybe, but so is work. I found when I re-centred my lifestyle, I actually had more energy. I was also able to deepen my relationships with each member on my team, and really get in tune with what kind of communication extracted the best, most inspired work from them. There’s a nice exchange of positive energy we have going on at Gnossem, and its fundamental to how well we do our work.

Pham: Tell me about your TED talk. What do you see as the future of online retail?

Crosswhite: At TEDx Hong Kong in November of 2012, I spoke in front of a crowd of 1000 after the ex GM of Zynga, and a world reknown robotics engineer, and somehow did not breakdown into apocalyptic seizures. (I was terrified).

My talk was about the polarization of the Fashion World between Disposable Fashion — mass market, cheap, everyone has the same thing, and Unattainable Luxury — high end luxury items that most of us can’t afford to buy as often as we’d like. I mentioned how I grew up flipping through VOGUE and dreaming of Balmain rocker pants, while wearing a rip-off by H&M; and how this mentality of “some day I’ll be able to get $$$, but for now I’ll just wear XYZ” actually robs us of the joy and meaning in dressing.

The polarised view of fashion, supported in large by advertising spend by big companies on either end of the spectrum, forgets about all the incredible (and affordable) local designers, artisans, and bespoke designers around the world. I call this category of quality, unique fashion – Independent Fashion. But in the same frame of thought, you can include vintage items, gems from your mom’s closet in the 60′s, 70′s, 80′s, etc. And its at a loss to us, as there are millions of products that are within reach, that are uniquely made by passionate designers, and perhaps closer to something you’d find meaningful in your every day dressing.

I touched on how I find it a bit sad that anyone would feel that a ‘status logo’ could ever add anything of value to one’s overall appearance; and that at the end of the day, its about quality, and really feeling good and ‘you’. I also spoke about how finding fashion items that are special to you is not just valuable for fashionistas, but anyone who dresses up each morning, and undresses each night. My point was that we all wear clothes, why not wear ones that have personal significance to us?

My idea with Gnossem was largely driven by the desire to give people affordable options that had the quality and design standards to be cherished forever. Its a nice feeling dressing for yourself, and having tons of unique options at your fingertips.

Pham: What successes have you achieved so far at Gnossem, in line with your perspective on the future of online retail? What new opportunities are you working towards?

Crosswhite: The future of online retail is curation; whether it be small elusive labels or an intelligent edit of the big guys. It use to be all about the marketplace. Buy anything and everything here! But options are ballooning, and the time-sensitive and sophisticated individual appreciates a level of QC and style curation. We’ve succeeded in proving that there is a demand for highly curated Independent Fashion, with sales growing at 25% month on month since our launch out of beta last September. I also throw pop-up sales regularly and get a very appreciated chance to talk with my customers, and see what kind of people they are… what kind of things they like and look for. Our largest success has been proving traction, and already holding a loyal fan base, with exceptional retention and LTV.

The new opportunities we’re working toward involve a shift from the ‘user account’ model of handling customers, to a ‘social profile’ which will enable and incentivise our customers to become advocates along with us. We’re also working on channel partnerships with some leading US retailers, such as Anthropologie, and trading our acclaimed curation of unique labels for a wonderful reach out to new potential fans. I’m also very excited about the new technologies we are testing to speed up the designer acquisition and publishing process.

The goal for Gnossem is to be at the forefront of this trend toward unique, curated fashion; with the most labels found online, and excellent intelligent merchandising. I want us to be more than just an online store, but rather a community to explore these incredibly special products. We are a team of very individual, unique people; and we love promoting independent choice when it comes to fashion.

Pham: Do you have any advice for other creative professionals aspiring to start their own companies?

Crosswhite: Don’t get bogged down with fear. People often see the upside as more irrational than the downside; while its really about seeing things in balance, and testing your assumptions. Hard work, a well-researched plan, and the humility and self-compassion to keep (quickly) testing to get to that sweet spot, will get you a long way. It’s been proven.

 
Update
10

6 weeks ago

RM47mil KWSG contributions still unclaimed

Jun 9 2014 7:54am CDT | Source: Business Times Malaysia

Cambodia's Famous Battambang Circus
KUALA LUMPUR: About RM47 million of contributions in the Teachers Provident Fund (KWSG) still remain unclaimed, the De ...
Source: Business Times Malaysia   Full article at: Business Times Malaysia
 

 
Update
9

7 weeks ago

Gold shop lost almost RM1mil

Jun 9 2014 3:50am CDT | Source: Business Times Malaysia

New Zealand All Blacks Squad Announcement
KANGAR: A gold shop owner lost almost RM1 million after after the safe on in his shop was broken into ...
Source: Business Times Malaysia   Full article at: Business Times Malaysia
 

 
Update
8

7 weeks ago

Motion to debate MAS losses in Dewan Rakyat rejected

Jun 9 2014 3:39am CDT | Source: Business Times Malaysia

Federal Aviation Administration Bans All US Flights To Israel
KUALA LUMPUR: AN emergency motion to debate the losses incurred by Malaysia Airlines last year, amounting to RM1.2 billion was rejected by the Dewan Rakyat today. ...
Source: Business Times Malaysia   Full article at: Business Times Malaysia
 

 
Update
7

7 weeks ago

MH370 Tragedy: Hisham: RM27.6 mil spent on 1st phase of SAR

Jun 9 2014 2:11am CDT | Source: Business Times Malaysia

KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia spent some RM27.6 million in its first phase of the search operations for missing Malaysia Airline flight MH370, said Acting Transport Minister, Datuk Seri Hishamm ...
Source: Business Times Malaysia   Full article at: Business Times Malaysia
 

 
Update
6

7 weeks ago

9.1m litres of diesel seized in a month

Jun 8 2014 1:11am CDT | Source: Business Times Malaysia

INDIA-CHINA-DIPLOMACY-TRADE
PUTRAJAYA: The Domestic Trade, Cooperatives, and Consumerism ministry has seized some 9.1 million litres of diesel and property worth RM58 million since mounting ‘Operasi Diesel Selatan’ in the southern states last mo ...
Source: Business Times Malaysia   Full article at: Business Times Malaysia
 

 
Update
5

7 weeks ago

Girl, 9, awarded RM2.78m compensation for medical negligence

Jun 6 2014 4:56am CDT | Source: Business Times Malaysia

Government Weekly Cabinet Meeting
KUALA LUMPUR: A nine-year-old girl who suffered brain damage during her birth at a government hospital was awarded over RM2.78 million in compens ...
Source: Business Times Malaysia   Full article at: Business Times Malaysia
 

 
Update
4

7 weeks ago

Malaysia's total trade in April up 12pc

Jun 5 2014 11:52pm CDT | Source: Business Times Malaysia

KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia's total trade in April 2014 rose by 12 per cent from a year ago to RM123.86 billion due to growing trading activities, International Trade and Industry Minister Datu ...
Source: Business Times Malaysia   Full article at: Business Times Malaysia
 

 
Update
3

7 weeks ago

Works Ministry to spend RM20m for upgrading works at 50 accident black spots

Jun 4 2014 11:35pm CDT | Source: Business Times Malaysia

Iskandar Johor Open - Previews
JOHOR BARU: The Works Ministry will implement upgrading works at 50 accident prone locations in the country that have been identified this year involving an allocation of RM2 ...
Source: Business Times Malaysia   Full article at: Business Times Malaysia
 

 
Update
2

7 weeks ago

Najib launches loan scheme for Ramadan traders

Jun 4 2014 10:24pm CDT | Source: Business Times Malaysia

EurAsia Cup presented by DRB-HICOM - Day One
PUTRAJAYA: Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak today launches RM45 million Ramadan Bazaar ...
Source: Business Times Malaysia   Full article at: Business Times Malaysia
 

 
Update
1

7 weeks ago

Residents bring up objection against Kidex to Suhakam

Jun 4 2014 4:49am CDT | Source: Business Times Malaysia

PETALING JAYA: A group of 20 Petaling Jaya residents held a meeting with the Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (Suhakam) over their objection against the proposed RM2.2 billion Kinrara D ...
Source: Business Times Malaysia   Full article at: Business Times Malaysia
 

 

Don't miss ...

 

<a href="/latest_stories/all/all/30" rel="author">Forbes</a>
Forbes is among the most trusted resources for the world's business and investment leaders, providing them the uncompromising commentary, concise analysis, relevant tools and real-time reporting they need to succeed at work, profit from investing and have fun with the rewards of winning.

 

blog comments powered by Disqus

Latest stories

Shift work can worsen asthma, pneumonia
London, July 28 (IANS) A research has found that drugs widely used to treat lung diseases like asthma or pneumonia work better with the body clock.
 
 
Decoded: What triggers sexual arousal in you
New York, July 28 (IANS) Know why just looking at an attractive face stimulates sexual arousal? Well, it takes two to tango!
 
 
Turn your selfie into emoji with this app
New York, July 28 (IANS) Tired of seeing the same yellow-faced smileys? In an age of selfies, how can emojis be far behind?
 
 
Forget injection, pills to cure hardest-to-treat hepatitis C
London/Mumbai, July 28 (IANS) On this World Hepatitis Day, there's good news for patients, particularly from India, for those suffering from hepatitis C.
 
 
 

Latest from the Network

UN calls for Gaza humanitarian truce, toll reaches 1030
United Nations, July 28 (IANS) The UN Security Council Monday issued an urgent appeal to Israel and Hamas for an immediate humanitarian truce in Gaza, where 1,030 Palestinians and 43 Israeli soldiers have been killed...
Read more on Politics Balla
 
Iran urges Muslim countries to help end Gaza blockade
Tehran, July 28 (IANS) Iran's foreign minister Mohammad Javad Zarif has called on Muslim countries to step up diplomatic efforts to help end Israel's blockade of Gaza, media reported Monday. Islamic countries and...
Read more on Politics Balla
 
Peter Jackson wore disguise to Comic-Con
'The Lord of the Rings' director Peter Jackson snuck into Comic-Con dressed in a disguise. The 52-year-old director revealed that he managed to explore Comic-Con in San Diego on Saturday (26.07.14) without being hassled...
Read more on Movie Balla
 
Lady Gaga portraits auctioned
A series of 'video portraits' of Lady Gaga raised over $1 million at auction over the weekend. Avant-garde director Robert Wilson showcased his '23 Video Portraits of Lady Gaga' series at his annual Watermill Center...
Read more on Celebrity Balla
 
Sandra Bullock's cowboy birthday
Sandra Bullock enjoyed an early 50th birthday celebration at a cowboy bar on Thursday (07.24.14). The 'Gravity' actress reached the milestone age on Saturday (07.26.14), but began her festivities early by heading to the...
Read more on Celebrity Balla
 
Kendall Jenner 'flirts' with basketball star
Kendall Jenner was seen ''flirting'' with NBA star Chandler Parsons at the weekend. The 18-year-old model and the 25-year-old basketball player were joined by her sister Kylie and two other pals at STK LA on Saturday (...
Read more on Celebrity Balla
 
Mick Jagger finds joy in birth of great-granddaughter
Sir Mick Jagger has found new joy with the birth of his grandson and great-granddaughter following the tragic death of L'Wren Scott. The Rolling Stones frontman was left devastated after his partner of 13 years...
Read more on Celebrity Balla
 
Studio reveals glimpse of new King Kong film
Legendary Entertainment's Thomas Tull has confirmed they are to make a film based on King Kong's home, Skull Island. The company's CEO confirmed the news at Comic Con this weekend when he claimed Legendary and Universal...
Read more on Movie Balla
 
CWG: Pugilist Sangwan eases into men's 81kg quarters
Glasgow, July 28 (IANS) Indian boxer Sumit Sangwan registered a comfortable 3-0 win over Mohammed Hakimu Fumu of Tanzania to reach the 2014 Commonwealth Games quarterfinals of the men's 81kg category here. The 21-year...
Read more on Sport Balla