Nana: Fashion has infinite possibilities, and new power is born from it. As a carrier of culture and times, fashion encompasses everything. From trendy to traditional culture, from celebrities, idols to everyone’s daily life, and from West to East, it is our discourse, our power, our time. Through Asian Voice, we hope to spread the local Asian fashion culture to the world by moving cross languages and borders.
In this edition of ASIAN VOICE, we welcome Jim, the founder of IJ, a curated store from Taiwan. During Jim’s college years, he desired to purchase unique and fashionable products at affordable prices, reflecting his passion for fashion. This desire served as the inspiration behind the establishment of IJ store. At IJ, you can always expect exceptional value for your money when shopping.
As a curated store, IJ positions itself as a facilitator of communication, a destination to discover quality brands, and a mentor for those seeking to enhance their fashion sense. Fashion should not be seen as something distant from daily life but rather as a source of enjoyment and self-expression, as Jim says, it should be a means for individuals to authentically express their true selves from within.
Nana: What’s motivated you to start your store IJ initially?
Jim: I initially had the motivation because as an ordinary university student, I wanted to buy the products I liked within a limited budget. So, I approached factories to find cost-effective items to offer more choices to budget-conscious customers. Additionally, I wanted to introduce brands that I believed had yet to be discovered to Taiwan, providing Taiwanese consumers with more options. However, my vision for IJ goes beyond just being a select shop; I also hope it becomes a new lifestyle and lift style. Therefore, I have recently dedicated myself to bringing more activities to Taichung, where IJ originated from. These activities may include thrift shopping, concerts, art exhibitions, and more.
Nana: What kind of experiences that you want to bring to customers when they are wearing and buying clothes from IJ?
Jim: What I hope for is to offer great value and create a sense of closeness through uniqueness. For me, making money is not the top priority. I believe that introducing cost-effective products to everyone is the best thing I can do. Moreover, I want to bridge the gap between brands and customers. Brands always aim to elevate overall quality and style, but as a platform for selecting goods and as an agent, I believe it’s important to present the brands in a relatable manner in everyday life. I want people to know that they are not distant from the brands and that they can integrate them into their own lives.
Nana: What do you think are some of the biggest challenges and opportunities facing in the fashion industry, especially streetwear scene in Taiwan?
Jim: I believe that the most significant issue in Taiwan’s fashion industry and clothing is the inability to focus on design itself, instead relying heavily on Key Opinion Leaders (KOLs). Blindly following trends is perhaps Taiwan’s biggest problem. However, Taiwan’s rapid information dissemination allows us to stay relatively up-to-date, even if we may be slightly behind others, but at least we are not stagnant.
Additionally, I would like to mention another issue, which is the hope that Taiwan can provide more opportunities for foreign designs and brands, free from political constraints and returning to the essence of design. Many brands have already achieved excellent designs, but their development in Taiwan is restricted due to their country of origin. Returning to the core of design should be independent of nationality.
Nana: Can you talk about IJ’s target customer demographic and how the store aims to appeal to this audience?
Jim: IJ actually started as an online sales platform. At that time, the physical sales were affected by the pandemic, and people were unable to travel abroad. Therefore, e-commerce benefited from the situation. Currently, IJ hopes to establish a lifestyle in Taichung, Taiwan. Therefore, we want to organize events to bring more cohesion to Taichung.
For example, we recently held a brand pop-up event on 6/22, along with a meeting and concert featuring Taiwanese rap label “Night Limited” and “Yellow Hippie.” We want Taichung and Taiwan to know that IJ is not just a shopping destination, and it’s not only about continuous sales. We can provide more choices for life, and through our lifestyle, IJ can attract friends who are interested in fashion. It can be a place they like and a way of life they enjoy, leading them to continue following us.
Nana: Is there any special standards when it comes to curating brands in your store? What kind of community you’d like to create behind?
Jim: Currently, our selection criteria focus on streetwear designer brands and brands with good value for money. The purpose of this approach is not only to increase the variety of products but also to become a messenger and mentor. We don’t want anyone to be ridiculed for not being good at fashion. That would be a very wrong behavior. We all learn and understand from our experiences and collisions along the way.
Therefore, we want to provide our fans with affordable yet diverse brands, such as “Crying Center” and “Evistub,” among others so that they can find their own style without feeling pressured by the price. And when they have a clear style and need more specific and upscale designer brands, they can also find them at IJ. If there are no collisions, we will only become clones of one another. We hope that everyone can become their own unique self in their hearts.
Nana: Can you recommend us some brands you think that is worth to check?
Jim: I think I would recommend two brands, the first is Crying Center, they have a large number of fans, I am proud to be their sole agent in Taiwan, they have a variety of designs, men and women have a lot of choices, and even home accessories are made, for those who want to try new styles, the unit price is also super cheap, there will be no pressure.
The second is 4dimension, which is my private favorite brand, which is a designer brand from Taiwan. Rather than defining it as a brand, 4D structured life and ideology belonging to 4D, 4D itself design is versatile, such as jackets and pants, etc., are combined with functional elements, and in the street and urban life to achieve a balance, Figure kick design is also original, in addition to In addition to this, the manager has also established the image brand NUL1.org to express the ideology of what many people are afraid to say and the events that they should be concerned about, and present them to everyone through clothing as a carrier. I think it deserves more attention because of the integration of social and life needs, and the physical presentation of ideas.
Nana: Could you possibly share some memorable collaboration project that you’ve done before?
Jim: Four months after IJ was established, we held a pop up for the designer brand Thecityworker in Taiwan, and after this event, we attracted the attention of HBX and Juice to the brand, and now we have successfully moved into HBX.
In addition, we have held many activities in our root base, such as second-hand auction with Kol in Taiwan, or the recent pop up of brands in IJ Taichung physical store in 622, including Ænrmóus, KOZABURO, Wave of Sand, Loose joint and new unisex brand MACADAM, etc.
Because the IJ Taichung store is a whole building, we held a solo graffiti exhibition by the new Taiwanese graffiti artist (who is also the manager of the rap brand Huang Hippie) Wii on the second floor, and a meet and greet with the recently popular rap brand “Night Time Only” on the third floor. We will also have a joint collaboration with the Taiwanese brand INCODER.
Nana: What advice would you give to aspiring designers about how they can differentiate themselves in this competitive space?
Jim: I think IJ has not launched its own brand yet, so I can’t offer any clear advice to the designers on what direction to take, but we can only offer the viewpoint of the IJ team in choosing the brand. I think the two will have different modes of operation.
Our idea is more practical, in fact, I think there is nothing wrong with sticking to what we are doing, but from a realistic point of view, if there is not a more favorable financial pillar behind, it will be a more difficult choice, so in addition to design, market orientation and adequate marketing are also indispensable. It will be a great start if it can be memorable to the public.
It will be a great start if it can be memorable to the public.