APOC Store Have a Playful New Vision for the Designer Collab


Launching a new retail enterprise in the middle of a pandemic may seem like a terrifying venture. Expanding less than a year later could be seen as downright madness. Yet for Ying Suen and Jules Volleberg, who started their multi-brand online fashion marketplace APOC Store last August, imagining their project as something flexible and ever-evolving is exactly what ensured its surprising success. (APOC’s lineup of designers numbered around 50 at their launch last year. Already, the roster has swelled to 120.)

Instead of managing inventory, APOC Store is a carefully curated and beautifully designed online platform allowing designers to ship straight to customers—like a smaller-scale, direct-to-consumer Farfetch—a model that means Suen and Volleberg can offer their designers a wider range of selling options and take a drastically smaller cut as the middleman. With pre-orders, one-offs, and made-on-demand products sitting alongside upfront purchases, for emerging brands, the crippling costs of meeting the minimum orders required by larger stockists are bypassed. And now, APOC are entering the next phase of their vision for the future of fashion retail: a series of six designer collaborations spanning knits to jewelry, ceramics to conceptual brooches.

“Since we launched last year, we’ve come to understand why we wanted to start APOC in the first place even more clearly,” says Suen. “We were feeling really fatigued by the industry and working ridiculous hours for other people. We also knew that young designers felt the same, running their labels whilst simultaneously working other part-time jobs. The industry is relentless. We wanted to create a structure that would give us all more autonomy and agency.”

It’s testament to Suen and Volleberg’s clarity of vision that so many of the most compelling young voices in fashion today—including Vejas, Gauntlett Cheng, Kepler, Ed Curtis, and Benny Andallo—have aligned themselves with their project. But it also speaks to the strong sense of community they’ve built around APOC. The collaboration concept wasn’t something initially on the cards when they launched, but after plans for a brick-and-mortar pop-up last winter were scuppered by the pandemic, it became the obvious next step to keep connecting APOC designers with each other.

“I think the community aspect is very important, especially over the past year where we’ve all been connecting digitally,” says Volleberg. “That’s one of the main reasons we wanted to organize the collaborations, to provide a different avenue for creating that sense of community and establishing those connections.” It helped, too, that many of their designers had quickly begun discovering each other’s work via APOC; some were already in conversation about collaborating when the pair first approached them about the project.

The results are wonderfully outré. South Korean designer Sun Woo, whose mind-boggling, architectural garments are inspired by pop-up tents, teamed up with the Kerala-born designer Harri, whose Willy Wonka-esque inflatable pieces went viral last year when he graduated from the London College of Fashion. They produced pants and gloves that delightfully blend their offbeat aesthetics. “Sun Woo and Harri were huge fans of each other’s work, but they hadn’t spoken before,” Volleberg explains. “I’m not sure who suggested it first, but one of them said they’d love to work with the other, and they were both fully on board. Seeing this happen was a really nice surprise for us too.”

Jeweler Caroline Ohrt, whose upcycled pieces might feature discarded gum packets cast in resin and attached to a single pearl, and menswear designer Adam Jones, who crafts sweater vests and scarves out of classic bar top beer towels, created rings and brooches featuring old liquor labels. Taken as a whole, the appeal of the collaborations speaks to the meticulously assembled selection of designers and artists that Suen and Volleberg have brought together over the past year through APOC.

It isn’t just that you may not have heard these names before, but also that nearly all of them have a rare ability to channel their avant-garde design instincts into products that feel immediately desirable. “Most of all, we want to be a platform where you can find designers that you wouldn’t find elsewhere,” Volleberg concludes. “It’s always been about discovery for us.”

Yet for all the wild eclecticism of these collaborations, their existence reveals how APOC customers approach fashion. They’re looking to support emerging creatives they admire, but also on the hunt for something that feels genuinely limited edition or one-of-a-kind. “We know our audience,” says Suen. “We’ve learned more about what works and what doesn’t, so we’re always there to guide the designers, but it’s really all about letting them decide what and when and how they want to sell their products.” The desire to buy clothes with a backstory—and how deeply those backstories reward closer attention—is what truly lends their vision its unique, heartfelt magic.

[Read More…]