At OnTheList, we get to accomplish two very crucial missions at one time: save the earth while saving our sartorial sanity. Launched in Singapore in 2018, the members-only platform offers weekly flash sales of off-season wares from over 500 brands and distributors from across fashion and beauty to wine — with discounts of up to 90 percent. It has organised 100 flash sales here both online and off, and commands a 20,000-strong membership, who are notified of events about 3 to 10 days before.
OnTheList, the brainchild of French entrepreneurs Delphine Lefay and Diego Dultzin Lacoste, was established in Hong Kong in 2016. By working with brands, including Tod’s, Salvatore Ferragamo, Michael Kors, Longchamp, Marc Jacobs and Jimmy Choo, to clear past-season inventory, the platform sets out to address the environmental impact of the fashion industry. Research reveals that around 150 billion pieces of clothing are churned out for 7 billion people every year; whatever doesn’t get sold gets burnt, shredded or sent to landfills, which further strains waste management all over the world.
It is something that weighs heavily on the mind of Adele Leong, managing director of OnTheList Southeast Asia. She sees her work as part of a solution to overproduction that results in excess inventory. Consumers, meanwhile, can look forward to savings on past-season items, especially with the knowledge that their purchases can help reduce waste pollution.
Besides Hong Kong and Singapore, OnTheList also has outposts in Taipei and Shanghai. Why do you think this concept is popular with consumers in Asia?
Consumers don’t just want quality goods but also want to invest in brands they can align personal values with. I think sustainability is something they resonate with. When we started in Singapore, some members were initially surprised at the discounts we offered but they gradually came to understand that by helping our partner brands to move off-season stock, they are playing a part in the move towards sustainability.
You spent more than 20 years in luxury retail with brands like Chanel, Fendi and Valentino, with experience across fashion, watches, jewellery and cosmetics. Do you think luxury retail deserves its bad reputation in sustainability?
One challenge many luxury brands face is not having suitable channels to rid past-season merchandise in a sustainable manner. So the excess inventory is stored in warehouses and might end up getting destroyed. Hence, OnTheList was founded to fill this gap. But in terms of adopting environmentally conscious and sustainable business practices, most brands have shown positive progress and are picking up pace to ensure correct steps are taken swiftly to minimise and stop damaging our environment. We are headed in the right direction.
How has it made you more eco-conscious?
I’ve had my own share of impulse purchases and overbuying, that led to unnecessary wastage. Now, I purchase items only if I can get good mileage out of them, so I look out for quality. Twice a year, I do a Marie Kondo-inspired spring-cleaning at home. Whatever we no longer need but are still in good condition, will be packed and donated to my church’s thrift shop to sell for fundraising. I also bring my own bag when I’m out shopping!
OnTheList encourages members to use its recyclable shopping bag.
Yes, because we want to avoid using plastic bags as much as possible. Every purchase comes in one of these bags and it has become something of an icon in the region. In the effort to reduce waste and environmental harm, we also encourage partner brands to donate leftover items to charity. In Hong Kong, items are donated to organisations such as Crossroad and Mother’s Care that reach out to the needy. Recently OnTheList also participated in a recycling programme at Lane Crawford, where our showroom contributed over 3 tonnes of cartons and 146 kg of polybags for recycling. We hope to do something similar in Singapore soon.
You came on board in April, as Singapore introduced the circuit breaker to curb the spread of Covid-19. How has the pandemic changed how OnTheList reaches out to its audience?
The Covid-19 pandemic resulted in significant acceleration in e-commerce growth as individuals and businesses turned to digital options as a means to circumvent physical shopping environments, which were shut as part of the measures. Hence at OnTheList, we focused our e-commerce platform to cater to consumers since they are spending much more time online now.
Everyone’s working or studying from home these days. Has it been tough, given that you are also a mother of three?
The key is time management and my family tries to keep to the usual schedule to promote normalcy as far as possible. We also carve out pockets of space at home so the 5 of us can go about our tasks with minimum distraction. Good noise-cancelling headphones also come in so useful! I have three kids; my son is 14, and my two daughters are 11 and seven respectively. The two older ones are independent and do not require supervision for home-based learning. With the youngest, I checked in on her more frequently during the initial days but she can manage on her own now. A good part about the circuit breaker is that we can use time saved on commuting to enjoy family bonding activities such as playing with our pet puppy and catching up over a meal.
You enjoy cooking and baking when you are not working.
When I am baking or cooking, I become more relaxed; I enjoy the process of putting together every ingredient and sharing the result with my loved ones. They love my pastas, and Peranakan dishes like Babi Pontang and Bak Wan Kepiting, and Lemon Drizzle Cake.
Finally, favourite non-work-related apps?
YouTube. It’s like a one-stop shop for me; I love searching for cooking and baking videos for inspiration. This is also where I watch The Late Late Show with James Corden for his Carpool Karaoke!