There’s something special about the Philippines and Singapore bouncing off energies when it comes to sneakers and streetwear. I’ve personally been to Singapore a couple of times and every time I go there, I get to meet a couple of interesting sneaker collectors and I get to take home a pair or two.
It’s safe to say Singapore and the Philippines are connected in a lot of ways sneaker culture-wise. Given that there is a strong Filipino sneaker movement in Singapore, it’s basically how warm and welcoming Singapore is. Fast forward to now, that connection has grown stronger through Ox Street.
If you’ve been living under a rock, Ox Street is a selling platform based in Singapore that enables us Filipinos to get our hands on the most exclusive and most hyped-up pairs at affordable and competitive prices. Best of all, the selection is diverse and updated consistently.
We’ve recently chopped it up with Gijs Verheijke of Ox Street to get the lowdown on what the future of street-culture in Asia is all about. Who knows? Your next purchase may be via their store!
First off, can you share how Ox Street started out?
My name is pronounced ‘Guys’. I grew up in the Netherlands and got hooked on sneakers when I was around 10 and I saw a beautiful pair of Air Max on the feet of a classmate. I have always charted my own path. I studied Biology, before switching to Finance and starting my career in Private Equity at The Carlyle Group. After a few years honing my excel skills, I decided I wanted to broaden my horizon and get more responsibility. I joined Rocket Internet and led consumer marketplace startups across Asia. My time at Rocket, and as a freelance strategy consultant after, was a crash-course in building and running startups. I gained experience leading cross-culture teams, and executing in South and Southeast Asia.
In the meantime, I was on the lookout for problems to solve with a startup of my own. Seeing the difficulties the Rocket startups had making money in emerging markets, I grew to admire the ‘Tesla’ approach of starting from the top of the market and moving down. I was also inspired by what happened after Alibaba acquired Lazada and then Daraz from Rocket. Where Rocket had managed the companies mainly for GMV, Alibaba was much more focused on engagement. Just get people to come back to the app as much as possible, and GMV will come.
My sneaker addiction of course was still going strong, and I got frustrated by how difficult it was to get good sneakers, even in Singapore or Bangkok. I also saw that our young employees in Myanmar were super interested in sneakers and fashion. Their first paycheck would go towards a smartphone, but the second one always went to self-expression through style. I started seeing the wave of a digitally native Gen Z across Southeast Asia coming and learned that there really wasn’t a good platform for this new generation to shop.
The final spark flew when I saw new marketplace models exploding in the US and China, like StockX and Poizon. There were clear frictions locally in that space, so I felt it was a good place to start. I wanted to leverage my experience with marketplaces and saw a lot of room to improve on what StockX and GOAT had started. StockX has built a good utility, but it’s not that useful for people who are not hardcore resellers. GOAT drives a more emotional connection to the products, but their weakness is that they are very focused on the ultra-luxury niche. So I got started building a platform for Gen Z in Southeast Asia, with a marketplace foundation but a bigger vision to reshuffle different elements of social, content, and transactional models, and create a new way to shop.
Ox Street is the first social marketplace for Gen Z in Southeast Asia. There are 85 million Gen Z consumers in Southeast Asia, who together will spend 128 billion USD on fashion in 2025. None of them are wearing suits, and these consumers spend a LOT of time on their phones.
Their behavior is triggering a rethink of the boundaries between the marketplace, e-commerce, social media, and gaming. The truth is; shopping and owning fashion are inherently social. But nobody has built the right UI for it yet.
Why do you need to use 6 different apps to find out which sneakers your friends are wearing, where to buy them, and to show them off on social media? The whole 2010s app landscape is fragmenting. Most brands are pushing more toward D2C, every social network is trying to implement shopping. The rise of resale, and used is complicating the transactions landscape. The current solutions result in our audience ‘hacking together’ a complicated suite of apps to operate through the functions of discovery, discussion, transacting and showing-off.
Singapore and the Philippines’ sneaker scenes are very much similar yet a lot different, can you share how you ended up with Philippine sneakerheads/influencers on your page?
The plan for Ox Street was always regional. From my perspective, Singapore offers benefits as a headquarters location, like an easy, predictable regulatory and banking system. On the other hand, the bigger markets have always been more important in the long run. I see the Phillippines as one of the OG sneaker markets within our scope. It’s a community where the culture of loving products and brands for the story and the aesthetics is very strong.
Obviously, basketball plays a massive role in driving the sneaker community in the Philippines. I’m sure you also know that some of the biggest and well-known international sneaker celebrities have Filipino roots. Singapore also has sneaker communities specifically for Filipinos. It was a conscious decision to consider the Philippines as one of our focus markets.
Can you share with us your vision for Ox Street? What’s your main goal aside from being a go-to sneaker shop?
The perceived boundaries between the marketplace, eCommerce, social media and even gaming are old-fashioned and limiting for consumers. At Ox Street our mission is to break these boundaries and build a paradigm-shifting platform for Gen Z to discover, buy, sell, and flex sneakers and streetwear. It’s a transactional social platform, hyper-focused on a ‘niche’ that now controls around 25% of the online spend in Southeast Asia. The problem with pure marketplaces like StockX is that there is nothing else to do except transact. Most people just don’t buy new shoes every single month. Our goal is to drive customer retention by building a platform that is also fun when you’re broke, and more fun together with your friends.
We have already built one of the leading sneakers and streetwear platforms in Southeast Asia. We broke the boundaries between marketplace and eCommerce by integrating supply from individual sellers as well as brands. We have a truly unique social media and content strategy, turning influencers into powerful marketers for our brand. We also take pride in our extreme customer focus. A lot of people don’t really like our competitors, seeing them as a necessary evil. In contrast, we are LOVED by our customers.
Our next moves center around breaking the boundaries between shopping, social media, and gaming.
We are now taking social to the next level with collabs with influencer-led brands. Our internal team can help design the products, and help source the product.
It will become more of a place to hang out. Leaning into everything that makes streetwear and sneakers an emotional space, which goes back all the way to my own experience of getting hooked on sneakers in the first place as a teenager.
As a sneaker fan yourself, is there any particular shoe you’d like to own or something that you fancy?
In the past I would have said some of the older Patta x Air Max 1 collabs like the Cherrywood. But the reality is those releases from the late 00s are probably just too old now to still find a mint condition pair.
Currently, the Off-White Jordan 2 is a must-cop for me, and I have started to dip my toes back into New Balance after years of buying almost exclusively Nike sneakers.
What can you say about sneakers now being sold and traded online? Have we forgotten the actual physical store experience or are we just embracing change for the good?
I actually believe it can be taken much further than just selling and trading online. One of our goals is to make the online representation of the products more immersive. One of my pet peeves is that you have to wait for the product to arrive if you shop online. Why can’t there be a great unboxing experience right there in the app after you buy? And why would you not be able to use the sneakers you bought in your favorite videogame as well as in the flesh? On the other hand, we have an AI-powered feature in Ox Street where you can snap a photo of a sneaker with your phone and the app will tell you which pair it is and how much it currently costs. In my mind, physical stores and online stores are just ‘distribution channels’ for the same thing, and the online and physical worlds are expected to become more and more entangled.
Can you share with us something about your collab with Carousell? What’s that all about?
We had started talking with Carousell about potentially bringing our authentication services to their platform for sneakers. But we could not quite figure out what the partnership would look like economically and in practice. Ultimately after a lot of brainstorming and realization that we share a common vision for the future, we decided to join forces, and Carousell Group acquired Ox Street. Ox Street now continues to operate as a separate brand with its own team, as a fully owned subsidiary of the Carousell Group.
If you were given a chance to collaborate with any brand or celebrity what/who would it be?
DJ Bigboy Cheng of course!
Your message to This Is Hype PH readers please…
Ox Street is open for both buyers and sellers in the Philippines. Please try us out, and do let me know what we can improve about the experience! I can be easily reached through our customer service channels!
On the local front, do check out our conversation with vintage pioneers Season Pass here.