Other platforms in Malaysia fill the gaps in the local art industry, such as Buttermilk, which serves as the “yellow pages” for it, and Cult Creative, which works similarly to “LinkedIn” for local artists.
These platforms are designed to support the visibility and networking of local artists by consolidating them all in one place. Typically, Malaysian artists then rely on bazaars and their own social media to sell their work.
Here the two sisters Dana and Elina noted that we don't have a go-to marketplace (both online and in-store) that specifically focuses on fine arts for people to buy from. This resulted in OUTLET.
A one stop shop for local art
As the average consumer who is not too familiar with the local arts scene, I find it difficult to buy locally for the exact reason Dana and Elina mentioned.
Since there isn't a significant one-stop shop for local fine arts, I would just buy generic art from a store that is likely to mass-produce paintings or IKEA.
"As we thought about it even more, we felt a growing desire to create a platform and marketplace where people could discover artists and buy their work," Dana and Elina told the Vulcan Post.
Prints by the artists Sherwan (left) and Fabiola (right) / Picture credits: OUTLET, Sherwan and Fabiola
So the sisters made their first leap into the e-commerce scene to solve that pain point for local artists and consumers. They also run OUTLET, as Dana is an art psychotherapist and Elina works in communication with the publishing and music industry.
Address a variety of tastes
How the duo procured the works listed on OUTLET, they announced that they have currently delivered products and exclusive collaborations.
“With programs we address artists (or vice versa) who already have products that you want to sell on our platform. In exclusive collaborations, we turn to artists we'd like to work with to sell products that are only sold on our platform, ”they said.
Some finished works of art have a few units in stock, others do not, and the number of units is mutually agreed between OUTLET and the artists. These numbers also depend on whether or not it is an 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 has developed in a specific print medium. Open editions, on the other hand, are a selection of works of art that can be reproduced repeatedly. Most open edition prints allow you to purchase an unlimited number of the same work of art.
On the OUTLET page you will find a variety of art prints that range in style from minimalist to lively. The art prints cost between 15 and 90 RM, depending on the size and medium, and there are also original tote bags for 25 RM.
Go where customers already are
"When we conducted our survey before the launch of OUTLET, we found that a majority were not prepared to spend too much money on art prints," recall Dana and Elina.
“While this may hold us back as a company, we believe in the value of artists and their work. Therefore we use OUTLET as a platform to try to create more demand. "
Plant-inspired prints by artist Shan Shan / Photo credit: OUTLET and Shan Shan
Currently, their main sales channel is Instagram, but they also facilitate transactions on Facebook. The reason for this is because they perceive these social media platforms as the best ways for customers to discover emerging and established artists.
Additionally, this will help Dana and Elina build their social media presence, but they have said they are also working on a website that will be released shortly.
Your current method of selling the prints through PMs may be sustainable on this scale, but a website is definitely the right next step if you want to establish yourself more firmly as a benefactor in the industry.
While they may lose the personal touch of selling through messages, a website that facilitates e-commerce transactions can make customer travel easier and make purchases virtually anytime.
Bringing out artists among the disadvantaged
OUTLET is not a social enterprise, but Dana and Elina also felt it was important to include artists from less privileged communities in the market.
That's why they're helping sell tote bags from the Life2Life Ampang Sewing Center, a social enterprise that offers asylum seekers the opportunity to use their skills to make a living. This group also works with the social enterprise Love, Light, Lemons.
Simple tote bags that still make a statement / Photo credits: OUTLET
“With this philosophy in mind, some of our upcoming artist products will use a portion of the proceeds for a selected charity or a specific cause,” the sisters told the Vulcan Post.
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Diving into e-commerce with products that Malaysians are not ready to splurge on will no doubt be a challenge for OUTLET.
Although it may be difficult to change this spending behavior of Malaysians (if one can use the survey responses from OUTLET as a guide), OUTLET still offers the possibility to change this.
It's just getting started, but if the startup gains enough traction it will open up more opportunities for other companies to do the same for the benefit of the local artist community.
- Learn more about OUTLET youe.
- You can read more about art-related startups we covered Here.
Featured Image Credit: Dana and Elina, founders of OUTLET (left) and Afi, the artist of the Fruchtbilder (right)