Guide: Fail-proof shopping from Asian E-Retailers

Wednesday, March 07, 2018

Top - Rosegal
Skirt - Rosegal
Earrings  - Zaful

We have all come across Buzzfeed's hilarious collection of memes based on people buying clothes and accessories online and getting all kinds of bizarre results in the post. But the temptation to continue shopping from these sites is strong because of two very important factors - 'on-trend' designs and affordable prices. So are they always as bad as they're made out to be and if so, is there anyway to get around the pitfalls?

I'm an avid online shopper, largely due to convenience but also for variety. In Australia, the variety of clothing offered is nowhere near that in America or Europe and with shops closing early around 5PM, there is very little convenient time to shop. But this is easily catered to by online shopping sites like Asos, The Iconic, Missguided, etc. The main reason why I have sometimes opted for Asian eRetailers is because I almost always have an outfit planned in my head and hence search for very specific items to create that outfit into a reality. This means scouring various sites and taking a gamble on sites like Ebay, AliExpress, SheIn, Romwe and more. 

If I'm being entirely honest, the ratio of good to bad stuff on these sites is much lower, yet my success rate with Asian eRetailers has actually been more hit than miss, not very different to more trusted retailers like Asos. The outfit I'm wearing above was sent to me from an Asian eRetailer Rosegal  and we've featured plenty of clothes from such retailers in the past too such as here, here and here. All online stores tend to be a bit of a gamble but the benefit of sites like River Island or Asos is their easy return policies which don't leave a lot of room for additional costs etc. In contrast, Asian online stores are extremely hard to get in touch with. They also charge return postage, which due to their location sometimes amounts to a greater cost than that of the item itself. 

Despite this I have gambled on them often when looking for specific styles and have turned most of them into hits by always taking the below rules into consideration:
  1. Let the buyer beware – I'm a cautious person by nature and this quality lends itself quite well to online shopping. As someone who despises the return process, no matter how efficient it is or whether its free postage or not, I am extremely cautious when picking an item online. Be sure to zoom into the outfit and read through all the details provided. It also helps to see the outfit on others via store Instagram, etc.
  2. Check the size guide – Sometimes size guides are provided in cm/inches for each size. Measure yourself and order accordingly.
  3. Avoid free size clothing – Often times you’ll see dresses available in 'one size only'. Generally, these are tailored with a stereotypical Asian physique in mind and will not fit as well on a person of a different build and body type. Best to avoid in my experience.
  4. Read reviews – This one is extremely important. I generally avoid buying clothes that don’t have any reviews. If there are 50 reviews, read all of them and look through any images attached with the posts to get an idea of how the outfit looks sans the professional lighting, editing and models. Read them and take them seriously.
  5. Search on other similar websites - Quite often you can find the same item across multiple Asian eRetailers due to the manufacturer being the same. If I am unable to find reviews on one website, I search for that item across multiple websites to check if any extra review or photo turns up.
  6. Favour materials like lace and chiffon –  In my experience, Asian retailers have truly mastered the art of using lace. More often than not, outfits made from such material turn out nicely as they fit it in well with Asia's own unique aesthetic revolving around lace, ruffles and ultra feminine silhouettes. Want proof? Just take a stroll through Hong Kong's Mongkok market and you'll find plenty of stores selling things that will match these websites perfectly.
  7. Stick to loose fitted clothes –  Buying pants, swimwear, pencil skirts and extravagant gowns tends to be a risk that rarely pays off in my opinion. This is because for these items to look good, they need to fit you like a glove and that's something that is hard to get an idea of online.  On the other hand, A-line dresses, smock dresses, free flowing skirts, blouses and others along the same line are a safer bet.
  8. If the price looks too good to be true, it probably is - I tend not to purchase anything that is unbelievably cheap from these sites. If a pretty white dress is $10, it is probably going to be unlined and see through making it more beachwear than partywear. Everyone wants a bargain but not at the cost of quality! 
  9. Splurge on accessories –  If you're looking for a fail-proof purchase to ease you into the shopping experience, try accessories. I have never had a bad experience when shopping for jewellery or hair accessories from the stores mentioned. Given that the fit isn't so much an issue here, there is much less scope for things to go wrong. Not to mention, you can find some real gems in there and that too for bargain prices compared to what you'd pay in store.
In my long run of good purchases and disaster buys, these are the few tips I've picked up that I hope will help you out too. Happy shopping!

Note: This article does not address any ethical issues that may be attached to shopping from Asian eRetailers. We'll get to that side of the topic later down the track. 

Links à la Mode, March 15th, 2018

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  1. I usually buy on Asos and Zalando because of their free return policy, even though I used to buy more from Shein (back in the days when it was still Sheinside). I have to admit the cheaper Asian online stores have so many fashionable things, but to me it doesn't beat that. :) Great tips though! :D

    xo Noor