Helen Zhu on Making the Fashion Industry More Open


Haegawn Kim (HK); Why did you found Chictopia?

Helen Zhu (HZ); I founded Chictopia because I wanted to transform the fashion industry to be more open. I also wanted to give real talent in the fashion industry a launching pad to get noticed, just like how YouTube gave great filmmakers a launching pad and MySpace does that for its users. So, we hoped to be the platform that gives everyone a voice in fashion.

HK; How have you promoted your work so far? How did you spread your ideas?

HZ; I think our ideas were just spread very organically. We started by posting photos of ourselves, our friends pitched in, and then like minded individuals started coming to the site.

HK; Can I ask where did you find the idea?

HZ; I think the ideas just came around because we thought about a problem that a lot of us have which is, well, it looks good on you and I think how we answer these questions are essentially people can look through fashion magazines that show you runway models that don’t look like you or TV commercials that show you brands that may or may not be relevant to you but realistically in life I think we look at people around us, people we see at coffee houses or our co-workers or classmates, how they dress and get inspiration that way.

HK; Was there any demand when you began business?

HZ; Yes. We felt that if people were looking at people at coffee houses for inspiration anyway, why not let them come to an online website.

HK; Sure thing. Chictopia is founded in April 2008, so it’s quite a new. And I’m just wondering what is your goal or what is your objective at the moment.

HZ; Really our objective is to grow our presence on the internet and to build a really strong community and build a really strong brand.

HK; Do you think online based companies like Chictopia are going to increase?

HZ; Yes, definitely. The audience for the web increases yearly, so I think the number of companies that are online will increase as well.

HK: Can I ask what is the key element to make a successful business on the web?

HZ; I think the key elements of companies in general is really to solve a problem and deliver a product that users will use and I think as Chictopia the problem we found in the industry was that people needed a place to look for fashion inspiration without celebrities and fashion models.

HK: How do you differentiate your company from other fashion website companies?

HZ; We are a user-generated content company, so that really sets us in a totally different zone. There are very few fashion companies that are user-generated and that’s our differentiator.

HK; That’s a very interesting point. As my research is on the law of success, I want to ask you your definition of success.

HZ; My definition of success for a company is really to deliver something that is useful to its audience and they obviously appreciate the product. That would be success.

HK; How about success in your personal sense?

HZ; I think for me to be successful is to be able to do the things that I believe in and to be able to offer it to those that are in my circle as well.

HK; Cool, sounds nice. Could you give me your advice to achieve success in general life?

HZ; I think everyone can be successful in their own way if they know what they want, they have a clear goal of what it takes to get there and they do it.

Haegwan Kim
Haegwan Kim is a writer who was born in Osaka, Japan in 1989 and grew up near Tokyo where went to a Korean school for 12 years.
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