Kwaleö Marketplace, the Platform Helping Creatives Boost Their Profits
Kwaleö Marketplace, the Platform Helping Creatives Boost Their Profits
Standing on a rooftop bar in Bethnal Green, I noticed a male wearing what seemed to be an interesting choice of clothing, a bullet proof vest. Sparking a conversation, it turns out the product was the creation of the wearer, Laurenzo Faboumy, co-founder of Kwaleö Marketplace with partner Stuart Megarry.
Kwaleö is a niche marketplace for independent labels and designers, championing innovation, creativity and lifestyle. Kwaleö literally means ‘seize the day’ in Swahili, the company is about seizing opportunities and disrupting the somewhat stagnant nature of the creative industry. I sat down with the co-founders to find out more.
Roisin O’Hare: How did you enter into the creative industry?
Laurenzo Faboumy: Whilst completing my studies in finance, I started a digital lifestyle magazine focusing on trends and style tips called ‘Auxjourslejour’. I managed this magazine for 5 years which helped entrench me into various areas of the creative industry such as fashion, art and music.
ROH: What was the initial inspiration for the concept of Kwaleö marketplace?
LF: Well the industry is so crowded that I always told myself that if I was to do something it would have to be meaningful for me and helpful for the people that would benefit from it – different from the rest. Taking this into account, the main inspiration was to offer two specific services helping both independent designers and busy millennials, especially those with eclectic tastes.
The first one was to provide independent designers with the right resources to get more exposure, because let’s face it, these people are being squeezed! A growing number of emerging and talented designers can’t get the recognition they deserve because they don’t have the capacity or the right budget to fulfil big orders coming from major retailers asking for excessive margins. Therefore, Kwaleö provides them with a simple online marketplace where they can easily boost their sales. We are also in the process of launching a service called ‘Kwaleö Connect’ which allows designers to get more exposure and receive creative services from our network of freelancers.
The second point was to make choice less overrated because finding unique products online from mass or high-end retailers without any fuss can often be tricky. Ideally, through Kwaleö I want to provide millennials with a curated selection of unique products matching their individuality and budget.
ROH: Kwaleö has a different outlook on the arts, seeing it more as a collaborative world. What drives your passion for Kwaleö on a daily basis?
LF: I strongly think that teamwork makes the dream work, which is why I focus a lot of on creating collaborative projects involving a lot of different like-minded people doing great things. Secondly, London is a city full of creative people so unless I meet and get to work with all those people I don’t think I’ll stop doing what I do on a daily basis. #seewhatimean
ROH: What is the most important message the platform stands for?
LF: ‘Be Your Own Tribe.’
Which means that you should embrace yourself and surround yourself with supportive people, putting your differences aside.
ROH: What type of creatives do you host on the platform?
LF: I would say that 80% of the creatives on the platform are fashion designers, and the remaining 20% is a mix of painters and graphic artists. We are usually one of their first steps into selling.
ROH: Considering Kwaleö has such a varied range of creatives, what distinguishes someone to make you want to work with them as part of the platform?
LF: We are open to all types of creatives as long as their work is unique, conceptual and has a story. We are on a mission and we want our creatives to feel the same about their work.
ROH: How many designers, artists etc. do you have currently on the platform and how did you meet them?
LF: At the moment, we have over 50 designers and artists on the platform. Most of them we have found at fashion shows, art exhibitions, through Instagram or honestly at house parties. We go out a lot and attend a lot of events, so whenever we come across a designer or an artist doing something that can appeal to our audience, we propose them to work with us. For example, the latest addition to the Kwaleö family is @coupdecoeurlondon, who we randomly met on a Friday evening in the lobby of Ace hotel in Shoreditch after a few drinks.
ROH: What differentiates Kwaleö from other platforms for creatives?
Stuart Megarry: Put simply, we partner with our designers. When you join Kwaleö we try to create a family environment for our designers. Our ethos is to improve their offerings, provide them with guidance and make introductions to resources they need, while making sure we all profit.
We offer much lower commission rates than others in the market also – leaving our designers with more profits to invest in their offerings. Kwaleö was born out of seeing talented designers being taken advantage of because they might not be experienced in business – our platform aims to correct this.
ROH: How can Kwaleö offer this lower commission?
SM: Honestly, we are a tech company as much as we are a fashion company. Kwaleö has been setup to be better than the rest and more efficient. We don’t need to exploit our customers (both designers and consumers) to make a profit.
ROH: How does being part of Kwaleö benefit a creative?
SM: I have touched on this before, but another area we aim to add value for our members is through our event offerings. Our showcase events attract circa 500 people in an evening – the designer can exhibit their goods free of charge and we bring together the right people in the industry for them to gain exposure.
This of course is the aim, but everyone seems to enjoy the party afterwards more!!
ROH: I’m glad you touched on this, you recently hosted a few events, tell me a little bit more about those?
LF: Yeah, we have had some fun with these events. I must admit – the main goal of our the events is firstly, to show that Kwaleö is much more than a e-commerce platform, but also a community of eclectic people thinking out of the box; and secondly to create networking opportunities between the creatives from Kwaleö and the people that shop on Kwaleö.
Our events are a mix of exhibitions showcasing the work of our designers and artists from Kwaleö, panel discussions with insiders from the industry discussing a specific topic. Ultimately though, we aim to throw a good party with the best up and coming DJs and artists.
ROH: Not only do you co-run Kwaleö with partner Stuart Megarry, but in a sense you are also in the same position as the designers you work with, having created the ‘Be your own Tribe’ range for the platform. What drove the product line and how has it better helped you understand the independents’ point of view?
LF: ‘Be your own tribe’ is actually a series of clothing revolving around social, progressive and conscious messages. The limited edition t-shirts and tote bags aim to open people’s eyes to the importance of embracing the real side of them.
Some folks are happy with the status quo and their comfort zone, which is understandable. However, “being your own tribe” means you’re willing to think forward and outside of the box. Therefore, if you get to grips with your true self and feel comfortable being the real you on a daily basis, people who relate to you will feel a connection with your uniqueness.
And yes, as you have met Stuart you can imagine that staying out of our comfort zone is a must at Kwaleö!
ROH:How do you intend to grow?
SM: We want to keep expanding the marketplace globally. Our waiting list to launch new designers on the site is pretty long already so we want to keep developing this demand.
Kwaleö however is a much larger offering than the marketplace. We are going to keep expanding the ‘Be Your Own Tribe’ range, we also recently launched ‘Kwaleö Connect’ which is a service that brings together creatives who need each other’s service at a fair rate. We’ve also seen the event offering go from strength to strength – we have eight planned for this year alone and the first three all had great support.
Get in touch with Stuart or Laurenzo at firstname.lastname@example.org or via the instagram @kwaleo_marketplace
Written by Roisin O’Hare
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