This is Not a Mall is not the online arm of a sterile, soulless Southeast Asian shopping strip. You won’t find any garish, fluorescent lighting, nor thousands of brash, bobbling iPhone adornments or ‘Lewis Vuitton’ and ‘Channel’ handbags lining the racks.
Instead, the website is a unique and socially conscious shopping concept created by two Melbourne expats, Anissa Dove and Courtney DeWitt, who now call the addictive chaos of Bangkok home. Full of all things bright, brash and schizophrenically coloured, This is Not a Mall is a veritable treasure chest of accessories, jewellery and clothing the duo handpick based on the quality and ‘dopeness’ of the products.
As you stroll through the virtual complex, you might be tempted by a kitschy NEON Hmong coin purse, handmade just for you by the women of a remote Northern Thailand Hilltribe for a measly $6. For the same price, the lady with an inkling for more Victorian era inspired fashion can snap up a dainty ‘Frilled to meet you’ detachable cotton crochet neck collar that promises to take you from ‘boring to bangin’ with a simple tie of the knot’, all for less than the cost of two lattes. The bargain hunter can descend to the ‘Basement Hall’ with the click of a deftly positioned finger and snap up a flower power tie-dye t-shirt that is displayed superimposed over the image of a seriously doped up Snoop Dog. We’re sure the rapper would approve. Fashion blog fan? Susie Lau of Style Bubble recently made the NEON Hilltribe platforms her own.
In short, the site allows you to buy something seriously splashy that you won’t find en masse at Sportsgirl or Zara and wasn’t made in a sweatshop. With 15 per cent of all profits donated to the Faa Lang Fon Foundation, a charity committed to improving the lives of underprivileged Thai women, children and families, you can feel good about your purchases too.
Even though social and environmental awareness have entered the fashion vernacular in recent years, it remains difficult for consumers to make ethical fashion purchases. Buying with a conscience is easy to ignore when the geographical and cultural gap that exists between maker and consumer remain so vast. Dove and DeWitt aim to create a greater degree of transparency for ethically aware buyers by maintaining a high degree of personal involvement with the craftsmen and women they interact with, as well as profiling these designers on the site for buyers to see.
Beyond the individuals featured, the design and flavour of the site celebrates the elements of Southeast Asian life and style the girls have fallen so hard for – the irreverent, Mai Pen Rai (no worries) attitude, a degree of disorder that somehow functions perfectly and a dedication to style so fierce that “even though it's sticky and the pavement is cracked Thai girls rock six inch stilettos on the back of a motorbike taxi like it ain't no thang!”
You don’t have to wait for an Air Asia sale and barter in cloying heat for a little piece of the Chatuchak market anymore. Race you to the elevators, This is Not a Mall is now open for trading, 24/7.