More platforms in Malaysia are filling the gaps in the local art industry, such as Buttermilk serving as “yellow pages” for him, and Cult creative which works in a similar way to “LinkedIn” for local artists.
These platforms are meant to help with the visibility and networking of local artists by consolidating them all in one place. Malaysian artists generally rely on bazaars and their own social media to sell their work.
This was where two sisters, Dana and Elina, noticed that we lack a reference market (both online and in store) that specifically focuses on the visual arts that people can buy from. That was what led to the creation of EXIT.
A one stop shop for local art.
As an average consumer who is not very familiar with the local art scene, I find it difficult to buy local products for the exact reason Dana and Elina mentioned.
Because there is no notable one-stop shop for local visual art, you would get generic art from a store that probably mass-produced paintings or IKEA.
“Once we think about this further, we feel a growing desire to start a platform with a marketplace where people can discover artists and buy their work,” shared Dana and Elina with Vulcan Post.
Prints by artists Sherwan (left) and Fabiola (right) / Image credit: OUTLET, Sherwan and Fabiola
So the sisters made their first dive into the e-commerce scene to solve this problem for both local artists and consumers. They run OUTLET aside, as Dana is an art psychotherapist and Elina works in communications with the publishing and music industries.
Appealing to a variety of tastes
On how the duo sourced the works that are listed on OUTLET, they shared that they currently have consigned products as well as exclusive collaborations.
“With shipments, we reach out to artists (or vice versa) who already have existing products that would like to sell on our platform. Regarding exclusive collaborations, we reached out to artists with whom we would like to collaborate to sell products that are sold exclusively on our platform, ”they said.
Some pre-made art pieces have some units in stock, while others do not, and the number of units is mutually agreed by both the OUTLET and the artists. These numbers also depend on whether they are open or limited edition.
Dictionary time: The difference between open edition and limited edition is that limited editions are usually original works of art that an artist developed on a specific print medium. The open editions, however, are a selection of works of art that can be reproduced repeatedly. Most open edition prints allow the purchase of an unlimited number of the same artwork.
On the OUTLET page, you can find a variety of art prints that range in style from minimal to vibrant. Art prints are priced between RM15 and RM90, depending on the size and medium, and there are also original handbags that sell for RM25.
Go where the customers already are
“When we did our survey before launching OUTLET, we noticed that there was a majority who were not willing to spend too much money on art prints,” Dana and Elina recalled.
“Although this seemed like something that could slow us down as a business, we believe in the value of artists and their work, therefore we are using OUTLET as a platform to try to create more demand.”
Plant-Inspired Prints by Artist Shan Shan / Image Credit: OUTLET and Shan Shan
Currently, their main sales channel is Instagram, but they are also facilitating transactions on Facebook. The reason is that they find these social media platforms to be the best ways for clients to discover emerging and established artists.
Also, this helps Dana and Elina build their social media presence, but they have said that they are also working on a website that will launch soon.
Their current method of selling impressions through PM may still be sustainable at this scale, but a website is definitely the right next step if they want to establish themselves more firmly as a benefactor in the industry.
While they may lose that personal touch of making a sale through messages, having a site that can facilitate e-commerce transactions can ease the customer journey and allow purchases to be made at virtually any time.
Bringing artists out of the underprivileged
OUTLET is not a social enterprise, but Dana and Elina also felt that it was important to include artists from less privileged communities to participate in the market as well.
Therefore, they are helping to sell handbags made by Life2Life Ampang Sewing Center, a social enterprise that gives refugee asylum seekers the opportunity to earn a living on their skills. This group also works with social enterprises Love, Light, Lemons.
Simple Tote Bags That Still Make A Statement / Image Credit: OUTLET
“With this philosophy at heart, some of our upcoming artist products will have part of the proceeds going to a charity or chosen cause,” the sisters shared with the Vulcan Post.
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No doubt delving into e-commerce with products that Malaysians are no longer willing to splurge on will be a challenge for OUTLET.
While it might be difficult to change that spending behavior among Malaysians (if OUTLET’s survey responses are anything to follow), OUTLET is still creating an opportunity for that to change.
It’s still early days, but if the startup can gain enough traction, this will open up more opportunities for other companies to do the same for the benefit of the local artist community.
- You can get more information about OUTLET hereme.
- You can read more about art-related startups we’ve covered here.
Featured Image Credit: Dana and Elina, Founders of OUTLET (left) and Afi, the artist of the fruit paintings (right)