Up Close is Sourcing Journal’s regular check-in with industry executives to get their take on topics ranging from personal style to their company’s latest moves. In this Q&A, Joe Zhou, founder and CEO of on-demand fashion firm HugePod, discusses how working in customization has shaped his closet and the importance of listening to customers.
Name: Joe Zhou
Title: Founder and CEO
Which other industry has the best handle on the supply chain? What can apparel learn?
Electronics also has high requirements for the supply chain. It’s worth learning from them how they’ve refined supply chain management—specifically through technology and system optimization processes—to ensure cost-effectiveness, high quality and customer satisfaction.
How would you describe yourself as a consumer?
I am always on the hunt for a good deal. Being a marketer, I tend to pay great attention to the cost-performance ratio of products in general, so that plays a part in my decision. Sustainability is important, and I try to support retailers who are conscious of their products’ environmental impact.
As a consumer, what does it take to win your loyalty?
Consistent pricing and a brand’s devotion to its customers are important to win my loyalty as a shopper. We all want to feel listened to, don’t we? We’ve tried to put this into practice at HugePod, in fact.
What’s your typical work (or weekend) uniform?
Being able to design my own clothing has become addictive; it’s a company perk that I definitely take advantage of. I usually wear tees and a hoodie when I’m out of the house.
Which fashion era is your favorite?
The current fashion climate we’re in right now has provided so many possibilities for thinking outside the box with customized fashion due to technology. I think we’re going to see continued innovation with sustainable fashion and making it available mainstream.
Who’s your style icon?
André Leon Talley has given me some great ideas on styling and graphic printing. He was very bold, confident and innovative. His death was such a loss.
What’s the best decision your company has made in the last year?
Listening to our customers and putting their feedback into practice is something we take very seriously. We introduced customized labels, faster logistics partners and eliminated printing methods, for example, all in the past three months. Continually innovating our product and introducing new ways to make our customers’ businesses better is one of the driving forces at HugePod and one that I’m very proud of.
How would you describe your corporate culture?
A commitment to value runs like a thread throughout our company. How does that translate to our customers and helping them grow their business more? We all think outside the box here at HugePod and no idea is too small.
What can companies learn from Covid-19?
The resilience of an enterprise comes from rapid response, adjustment, adaptation and innovation to changes. Many companies gritted their teeth at the beginning of the pandemic and waited for it to pass for several months, but living with the pandemic has become the norm. Companies that seize this opportunity to innovate and proactively adapt and move forward are the future.
What should be the apparel industry’s top priority now?
Sustainable fashion! Phasing out polyester is one of our biggest user requests. Doing this requires forethought and commitment and isn’t an easy overnight change, unfortunately. It is the way forward though, and we recognize that, as does the apparel industry as a whole.
What keeps you up at night?
Transforming traditional industries with technology. I can never turn my brain off!
What makes you most optimistic?
Possibility—technology makes all things possible! Being able to give small businesses apparel styles they don’t have access to anywhere else to be able to compete with larger brands is such a joy to see. Our team thrives off seeing our sellers succeed.
Tell us about your company’s latest product introduction:
We’ve got over 200 unique products for sellers to choose from, ranging from clothing to home goods, which we just launched last week. A few other heavily-requested user features are also in the works, like custom packaging and additional branding options outside of hangtags and clothing labels.