Alternative investments are a polarising concept. Some look at them as a vehicle for financial control, while others pass them off as scams and get-rich-quick schemes.
Among Gen Z and millennials, these investments — from crypto to sneakers — are becoming commonplace. In a survey conducted by Fundrise this February, it was revealed that over 50 per cent of young investors were looking to increase their allocation to alternative investments.
Singapore-based sneaker marketplace Ox Street has been capitalising on this trend in Southeast Asia. Founded in 2019, the platform gives regional consumers convenient access to the latest drops.
“Traditionally there’s been a big supply gap when it comes to Southeast Asian and Australian sneakerheads having access to the most coveted kicks. Even when they are connected to the latest drops, they’re left empty-handed for several weeks due to shipping times,” says Ox Street founder Gijs Verheijke.
Ox Street has built up a vast community of local sellers and introduced instant shipping. In some cases, the platform is even able to fulfil next-day sneaker delivery.
This has allowed the platform to grow its sales by 400 per cent over the last 12 months. “The demand is credited to the rise of Gen Z investors, collectors, and fashion-conscious consumers,” adds Verheijke.
As with most forms of collectibles — from trading cards to action figures — the appeal doesn’t always make sense to those looking in.
Verheijke, being a collector himself, likens it to a bug. “Once you get ‘poisoned’ by sneakers, it’s very hard to stop,” he says. “You start to see them as more than just footwear.”
The appeal lies not only in owning the sneakers, but in the thrill of searching for the best deals and finding the right designs.
“It’s very easy to convince yourself that you’ll need at least two pairs of black sneakers, two pairs of white, and then you’ll need something a bit more airy for those hot days… Before you know it, you have 15 pairs of sneakers in your closet.”
As reselling has become a trend in the sneaker industry, sneakers have found speculative value too. When buying them, consumers gain a status symbol, an alternative investment and a complement to their wardrobe.
Verheijke believes that the industry is still in its early stages. Comparing sneakers to women’s fashionwear, it becomes apparent that the reselling trend has a lot of room to grow.
The pandemic has spurred on the demand for sneakers too. Verheijke speaks of a trend termed “secular casualisation of fashion”, saying, “With work-from-home being the standard, everyone has ditched the suit. In our view, it’s extremely unlikely that people will return to wearing suits in the future.”
“As a result, the old-school ‘flex’ of having a tailored suit and expensive Hermes tie has switched to social signalling through wearing certain kinds of sneakers and clothing.”
The growth of Ox Street
Although Ox Street took inspiration from trailblazers such as StockX and Poizon, it has innovated over time to set itself apart.
We realised that not only would it be hard to compete if we just do what they have already been doing for five years, but there is a much more exciting opportunity to build a truly innovative product for our local markets.
– Gijs Verheijke, founder of Ox Street
Noticing the poor customer service in the sneaker space as well as Asian e-commerce in general, Ox Street found a factor through which it could differentiate itself — giving its buyers and sellers “a surprisingly good experience”.
With its fast delivery times, large network of suppliers, and authentication services to verify the legitimacy of sneakers, the platform offers a safe and efficient environment for sneaker buyers and sellers.
In the spirit of innovation, Ox Street also became the first ever sneaker marketplace to introduce crypto payments. Since March 2021, users have been able to pay using a number of mainstream cryptocurrencies.
The success of Ox Street led to the company being acquired by Carousell late last year. Initially, the plan was for Ox Street to simply provide its authentication services for sneakers being sold on Carousell.
However, given that both companies had an aligned vision, it began to make more sense for the platform to join the Carousell group entirely.
“Carousell is effectively the largest sneakers marketplace in Asia, but the transactions happen largely offline through people meeting up,” says Verheijke. With the help of Ox Street, Carousell is looking to make the buying-and-selling experience as easy as can be.
“Our shared strategy centres around adding value to buyers and sellers in the sneakers space. Concretely, you can think of bringing Ox Street’s authentication to Carousell’s platform as an option, and enabling sellers on Ox Street to automatically also list on Carousell, taking work from their shoulders.”
Sneakers, streetwear, Southeast Asia
Sneaker and streetwear culture is in its early days in Southeast Asia, and Ox Street hopes to pioneer its development.
We are building a regional brand that speaks to local buyers. We are looking for the rebels who are orchestrating the next revolution in street culture. Who are the next Kanyes, Virgils and Kylies, coming from Jakarta, Manila, and Ho Chi Minh?
– Gijs Verheijke, founder of Ox Street
Verheijke believes that sneakers are the glue between several subcultures in art, music and fashion, which have gone increasingly mainstream.
“We feel they can also serve as a glue between the different countries in SEA. Our dream is to be a driving force behind the evolution of street culture and the art scenes in the region, and to become the go-to cultural centre for Gen Z.”