It isn’t easy to cadge an interview with Richard Xia.
The CEO and co-founder of online streetwear marketplace Novelship has been working at full tilt. He’s bringing new leaders onboard and readying their war chest for a Series B round slated for this year. The latter will give them the ammunition needed for a further incursion into the Asia Pacific market, which the 30-year-old says is ripe for the picking.
“Lots of people are entering the middle class thanks to one of the longest sustained periods of regional economic growth. Unlike the older generation who are more into saving for a rainy day, young people consume to express their individuality,” he posits.
“A lot of the skater boys from 10 years ago have entered the workforce and now have the consumption power to shape the culture. What we are seeing is a blurring of lines between streetwear and luxury. Even Gucci and Prada are selling sneakers and shoulder bags these days.Richard Xia
Their new-in-box, carefully embossed weakness? Limited-edition sneakers, streetwear and collectible toys that have fuelled an industry estimated to be worth some US$185 billion ($250.5 billion) globally.
“Between 2018 and 2019, there was an almost 300 per cent increase in search terms like Yeezy, Supreme and Air Jordan 1,” lends Xia. The trend alludes to a zeitgeist shift in fashion.
“A lot of the skater boys from 10 years ago have entered the workforce and now have the consumption power to shape the culture. What we are seeing is a blurring of lines between streetwear and luxury. Even Gucci and Prada are selling sneakers and shoulder bags these days,” he muses.
At the centre of this exploding cosmos is the hypebeast, a term describing zealous collectors of trending fashion items. Xia himself is an inveterate sneakerhead who says his counterparts are drawn to “being part of a wider community”. He established Novelship in 2018 with his long-time friend as an answer to their own grouses.
These centred on the fiendishly arduous process of snagging authentic limited-edition sneakers and a preponderance of inferior goods being hawked on Facebook and Carousell. Despite their “dubious distinction of having two failed ventures under our belt before graduation”, Novelship stuck. A rush of transactions ensued, including the coveted Nike Air Yeezy 2 Red October that traded for more than $30,000.
Xia says their revenue has grown 80-fold during the pandemic even as it crippled similar businesses due to supply chain issues.
“Thanks to our operations team, we could get back on our feet quickly and stay in business throughout,” he shares.
Sprinting ahead, Novelship plans to collaborate with brands, celebrities and influencers on their own releases. He has also corralled a team to explore metaverse options.
“There’s a strong overlap between our user base and those interested in tech trends like NFTs and crypto,” he explains.
Xia’s own obsessions are no flash in the pan. Since his university days, he’s been eyeing the off-white Nike Air Jordan UNC.
“The price goes up every year, but I’ll pull the trigger after the next successful fundraise,” he says with a glint in his eye.