FashionValet's announcement of its closer saw well known Malaysian influencer and founder of the brand, Vivy Yusof, facing a barrage of allegations by netizens.
Netizens have banded together to question both Yusof and the government bodies who have invested in her business in a Series C funding round in 2018.
In an exclusive statement to A+M, Yusof said that the decision to close FashionValet was made after careful consideration, and was done to focus on its best performing portfolios – its house brands LILIT. and dUCK. She added that the closure was accelerated due to COVID-19 woes, where many local brands scaled down their businesses, which diminished supply coming into the marketplace platform.
"It was a difficult decision as we were a platform for local brands for many years. We are proud that local brands used the platform as a stepping-stone and then evolved to have websites and/or shops of their own. We hope FashionValet has done its part in elevating the local fashion industry for over a decade," said Yusof.
She added that her focus and excitement is now in expanding beyond Malaysia. "We’re confident in reaching our ambition of making our local home-grown Malaysian brands LILIT. and dUCk into global household names, and a leader in the global modest fashion scene," she explained.
Addressing netizens' concerns surrounding the investment, Yusof explained that its investors have invested into the group as a whole, comprising FashionValet and its home brands, and not just FashionValet by itself. The government bodies have also invested in the group following a pitch session held in 2017, organised by The Ministry of International Trade and Industry, to encourage the investment into start ups.
"FashionValet has done its part for over a decade of wanting to elevate the local fashion industry. I think the news has been sensationalised to be seen as a bad thing, and unfortunately isn't reflective of the actual situation," Yusof said.
Monitor the social chatter
When facing a PR crises, the knee-jerk reaction often is to either lay low, or issue an explanation or apology - as needed in the situation.
For FashionValet's case, the focus should be on delivering a well-crafted narrative to quash any doubts around the business and to reinforce Yusof's and FashionValet’s core fundamentals that despite the closure, it remains dedicated to providing the support and venue for local brands to grow no matter the circumstances, explained Atiqah Khamurudin, regional public relations and communications manager at Intrepid Group Asia said.
"Authentically driven testaments of her past vendors, brand partners across various categories and mediums could further cement the narrative," Khamurudin said.
Despite its closure and alleged losses, Yusof can still keep her vendors at the core of her operations by continuing to demonstrate FashionValet's commitment and dedication to local brands even as it takes on a slightly different module. For example, she can provide them with collaborations and opportunities with the home-grown brands she hopes to take global, to further establish Malaysian names on a global platform.
“That being said, I would not engage with netizen chatter around the issue but rather monitor all social media channels closely in case things take a swift change,” Khamurudin added.
Should FashionValet address the social discourse?
Syed Mohammed Idid, head of corporate communications at PLUS Malaysia said prior to an announcement such as this, a communications director needs to help lay out an internal communications plans to bring assurance and comfort to the many local partners affected, and lay down a roadmap to support its "downsizing".
“The human factor is a key which triggers netizens responses if they feel that injustice has taken place,” he said. He added that given the difficult situation many in Malaysia faced brought on by the pandemic, "in Yusof’s case it seemed clear that her business had some financial muscles weighing in". That is why the matter of its closure seems more questionable to the public, he explained.
Many brands have taken to social media to address concerns by the public and issue official statements addressing their own PR mishaps when necessary. Earlier this week we saw Nippon Sushi issue a statement on its racially insensitive TikTok video with local influencer, CEO Batu.
According to Syed, to mitigate the issue, an honest and open communications initiative needs to be taken to explain how the situation panned out, regardless of previous fundings to ease the PR storm.
“The big no-no here is that the brand kept mum, and mum's definitely not the word here as clear and honest communications can soothe the savage social media beasts,” he said. The brand should publicly apologise for the lives impacted, and steps that the management intends to take to rectify the situation and give a crystal clear timeline and intended outcome for all stakeholders. "Not communicating is not an option now. Just be a kind human being and show genuine care when you communicate," he said.
Vivy Yusof's FashionValet announces closure, gets hit by wave of PR storm and allegations
Nippon Sushi MY apologises for racially insensitive TikTok video with local influencer
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