APOC STORE is a curated fashion and art marketplace which features emerging designers and artists.
The store is a solely online experience which rethinks the idea of the wholesale model. By removing wholesale buyers, order minimums and delivery windows, APOC Store puts the power back into the hands of designers, artists and creatives.
APOC Store launched in August 2020. The online marketplace has been able to fill the void in the fashion industry for a marketplace that solely promotes emerging designers and artists and helps consumers discover non-commercial creativity.
Think Harri’s inflatable trousers or the cigarette earring by Parsian-based accessories brand D’HEYGERE. APOC Store recently launched the work of non-binary designer Ella Boucht and is also set to feature young designer Common A Commune and bag and accessories brand Venczel.
We sat down (over video call of course) with APOC Store founders Ying Suen and Jules Volleberg. We talked about how the platform came about during a pandemic, what they’re hoping to achieve with their game-changing start-up, and what will happen when their brands become too established for their platform.
Tell us what APOC Store is?
Jules: APOC Store is a curated fashion and art marketplace where we work with conscious designers and artists to create a platform to sell their works. We set it up and want to find the most important talents in design and fashion and put them on one website.
How did the idea for the platform first come about?
Jules: We’ve been working together for a few years beforehand and then last year when COVID hit we were looking for a change. We saw a lot of young designers who were struggling so we thought of ways we could help them and one of the main ideas was to set up a platform to help promote and sell works in a flexible and sustainable way.
How did your previous endeavours help kickstart APOC Store?
Ying: We met almost three years ago now and I think when COVID hit we were both looking for a change. We both really enjoyed working with each other and in many ways, we are kind of opposites of each other. We complement the way we work and I think APOC Store is a result of all of our past experiences combined.
Expanding on your experience before APOC Store, how have your backgrounds influenced APOC Store?
Ying: I studied graphic design at Camberwell College of Arts. I’ve worked for art charities, for socially engaged architects but always around people though. For me, community and the relationships that we create between us are very important and something that ties throughout my work in some way. That is what we try to do with APOC. It’s not just a bunch of faceless designers, they all have their own identity and that’s something we want to celebrate. It’s not just about the products, it’s about them.
Jules: Before working with Ying I was still studying. I did an MA in retail management and during my BA in fashion, I was always researching the future of retail. I thought the current retail landscape was a bit outdated and I was always thinking and proposing new concepts. Everything I’ve been thinking about the last few years kind of went into APOC Store.
Tell us how you decided on the name ‘APOC Store’?
Ying: It took about 3 months, from start to launch. It felt like a long time to pick the name, we had this list, and we kept throwing names on it. One day, I remembered the word Anthropocene, the current geological epoch in which human activity is the dominating influence on the planet. There are consequences to this, for example, Climate change. What we noticed is that there is a new surge of designers who also see this and work in a way that cares about the world. APOC also references apocalypse; there are two meanings there really.
Jules: We always thought it was this combination between Anthropocene and epoch. At some point, it all clicked.
How do you choose the designers featured on APOC Store?
Jules: Ying’s and my approach are a bit different. We haven’t really settled on one specific aesthetic. In every different area, we try to find the most progressive, conscious, most interesting and challenging designers. Usually, we find them through Instagram and emphasise on finding designers that don’t already have stockists.
Ying: It goes back to how Jules and I are opposites and complement each other. Jules definitely adds his own overall view and is very holistic and methodical about it, but it’s really intuitive for me. If I see something and it excites me, and it feels right then I go for it.
Where are you involved in the platform, and how does it all work logistically?
Jules: We want to separate ourselves from regular retail stores, we want to be a platform. Essentially we don’t hold any of the stock, the designers take the pictures and send out the stock. We are a platform that shows these products. When launching APOC Store, we wanted to give more control to the designer, giving them more freedom as to what they sell on the platform. We help advise what will work or what won’t work but at the end of the day it’s their decision, they can sell as many or as few products as they want. We try to keep it as flexible as possible, and that’s where the magic happens because they can offer things they weren’t able to before.
Why do you think it is important, now more than ever, to give power to young designers?
Ying: By being flexible. We are respecting that each designer is individual, that they have their own capacity and resources. This goes beyond the material and financial but includes mental and emotional health which is more important than ever given the current pandemic. We allow them to do what they want when they want. This means we can offer a more creative and diverse curation which wouldn’t be possible otherwise.
Jules: We always thought the wholesale market was outdated and not beneficial to young designers. Either they really struggle with getting stockists or the demands are too big to fulfil.
APOC Store acts as a great platform to showcase young designers. Would you want to include more established designers going forward?
Jules: We don’t have any plans to, I think we’re happy with our curation. There are so many designers that aren’t on our platform so I think we’d like to prioritise them over working with big brands.
Ying: APOC Store is about discovery, not seeing what you already know.
What happens when designers become established, will there be a sort of graduation time for your platform?
Ying: That’s a question we have not had to answer yet. We’re seeing it already though, the designers we are working with are really growing. Maybe it will reach a point where it doesn’t make sense to work together but I hope not. If we’ve grown together, hopefully in some way we can keep working in that relationship.
How do you ensure diversity within the creatives you represent and why do you feel this is important, now more than ever?
Ying: Diversity is something we really care about, and we are still learning and always trying to improve where we can. As a starting point, we make sure that we have a minimum percentage of Black, Asian and Hispanic designers and artists. However, we are aware that these categories are still limiting. For example, Asians include a person having origins in any of the Far East, Southeast Asia, or the Indian subcontinent including Cambodia, China, India, Japan, Korea, Malaysia, Pakistan, the Philippine Islands, Thailand, and Vietnam. This is too broad, and we are looking into having a better representation of the diverse world we live in. Since we launched, we have also been mentoring Tega Akinola, who sold her first drop with us not too long ago. We saw her talent and wanted to nurture it and allow her to break into the market, which might not have been possible otherwise. We hope to work with more young black talent in this way. However, what is really apparent is that even though we live in a globalised, multicultural era, the world is still inherently Western-centric; the residue leftover from colonialism and imperialism. We have to take active steps to change this, and we are still working this out.
Jules: In addition to this, we are also looking to represent a more diverse range of artists and designers within the spectrum of gender. Admittedly, we have not done enough so far and we also know that this won’t happen overnight. Going forward, this is definitely something we are taking into account when selecting new artists and designers. Similarly to how we worked with Tega Akinola, we are very open to providing additional support and mentorship to talents from less represented (non-) gender identities.
What plans does APOC Store have for 2021?
Ying: The way we are thinking about it, we don’t want to be this huge capitalist company, intrinsically we are a part of “the system” but in terms of our values we want to look towards a more positive future. There are a finite number of resources and there are consequences to the way we have been consuming and living. We’re exploring how we can be more conscious and grow ethically and respect the planet. With 2021, the pandemic is still going to be present and last year everyone refocused what matters to them. For us, we are respecting and honouring these values.
Jules: We want to grow as ethically as possible and we also want to create more fun projects and continue surprising our customers.