Alanoud Al Mubarak saw the need for a platform that connects fashion buyers with designers, so decided to launch a non-transactional online navigable directory based in one of the region’s most promising yet untapped markets, Saudi Arabia.
Fashtory, which operates in over 21 countries including the UAE, boasts products ranging from bespoke clothing to abayas and shoes. Al Mubarak tells Arabian Business how the app supports emerging designers and tackles current challenges while offering a free service.
Why did you decide to launch Fashtory?
I created Fashtory because I felt there was a gap in the market for a platform that connected up-and-coming designers in Saudi Arabia with interested buyers. I personally love travelling and finding unique pieces wherever I go. Following conversations with friends and family, we agreed that the current process of scrolling through Instagram or relying on word-of-mouth was too time consuming and failed to connect designers and buyers efficiently.
I created Fashtory to bring both together, giving designers a chance to become the next big thing while helping fashionistas get their hands on unique products. As for the name, it’s a simple combination of the words “fashion and “directory”, and that sums up what the app is for.
What were some of the challenges you encountered while setting up Fashtory, particularly as it is a platform that doesn’t really have a benchmark here?
The greatest challenge we encountered was differentiating ourselves in the market and positioning Fashtory as a directory rather than an online shopping platform. It is entirely non-transactional, and acts as a social network instead, facilitating conversations rather than purchases. With so many emerging e-commerce platforms in the fashion industry, it was easy for Fashtory to mistakenly fall into the wrong category.
What are some of the difficulties you are facing in running the platform?
As with any new mobile platform, maintaining and growing the user base for designers and buyers can be challenging. Fashtory is dependent on an active user base for it to run smoothly. Although we have noticed a fast uptake in a short period of time, encouraging users to regularly check and update their accounts can be a challenge at times.
What is your business model?
Fashtory is built on a subscription basis, charging brands who want to be present on the platform a small fee billed through the App Store and the Play Store. However, since the launch, we have waived the fee until we firmly establish a loyal customer base.
What were you doing before?
Before Fashtory, I was working in our family business, which operates in the industrial chemical sector. I am still working in this role, but developing Fashtory in my spare time. It has been challenging juggling both, but the hard work and long hours are ultimately worthwhile when I see how fast it has grown in such a short space of time. Someday, I hope to be able to concentrate solely on Fashtory. But until the platform is further developed, I will continue to pursue the two ventures simultaneously.
Were you ever afraid to set up your own venture?
Initially, I had reservations, but I was always quietly confident that Fashtory would become a success. Sometimes the greatest opportunities in life come with a risk. I knew that in order to develop the platform, I had to take an initial leap of faith.
What is the best advice anyone has ever given to you?
The road to success is full of twists and turns, but one should always remain confident in their ability to make their dreams a reality. If you are focused and dedicated, your hard work will eventually pay off.
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