March 1, 2016

You know those dodgy looking Chinese websites that advertise cute cocktail dresses for only $7.99? The ones where you scrolled through thinking, ‘only a sucker would ever buy from here’. Well, thankfully for you, I was broke and desperate enough to try purchasing from some of these very sites, despite the many scathing reviews floating around the Internet. So if you’ve ever wondered what shopping there was like, and whether the clothes really come out looking like they do on the site – I’ve got you covered.

Observer.com once published a compilation of the top hated wholesale websites on the market – which I was surprised to see included some bigger names that I’ve seen YouTubers try, not to mention personally purchased from myself. One thing I noticed in common between all the bad reviews were that they were usually left by larger-sized American or European ladies, and that they had opted to buy pretty unusual items (think lots of lace and poorly-placed ruffles) that were, frankly, pretty ugly to begin with. So I took the plunge, the short, Chinese girl that I am, who couldn’t believe that websites from “my own kind” could fare as badly for me as for Westerners. Here’s a rundown of what I discovered.


1. Romwe

To start with, I had pretty high hopes for Romwe. It’s considered one of the more reputable Asian wholesale websites out there, and a regular online shopping destination for YouTubers like @Itslinamar, @TheLineUp, and @grav3yardgirl. Founded in Nanjing, China, in 2009, Romwe stocks a lot of on-trend pieces that you can often buy for under US$20 – which makes me one happy shopper.



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Well… Could’ve been worse. Both items actually turned out pretty true-to-picture (although I’m deducting points for the pic of the dress that’s clearly stolen), and if anything, came out a little too big on me. I got an S in the dress and an L for the skirt (my bad, I was paranoid), and while the former felt cheap and flimsy – not to mention sheer – the denim skirt was actually pretty decently made. So if there’s one thing I’ve learnt from shopping at Romwe, it’s to take every measurement they give you super seriously, because every piece is different.


Rating: 6.5/10
Shipping time: 2 weeks
Would I shop again? Maybe, the frequent 50% off sales are pretty enticing, and they do have some pretty stuff.



2. Taobao

Obviously I’m going to include this. Taobao isn’t a standalone wholesale website, per se, since it works as more of a buying platform connecting shoppers to a bunch of independent retailers. But there’s always still risk involved. Even after you’ve managed to navigate through the Chinese lettered interface, there’s still the matter of using freight forwarders to further complicate your shopping.



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I’m impressed. Everything I ordered came out looking pretty much exactly the same as pictures, and the measurements provided were perfect. Even the material on the satin bomber jacket wasn’t too shabby, which took me by surprise. I’ve heard that Taobao can be pretty hit-or-miss, so maybe I just had a lucky first experience.


Rating: 7.5/10
Shipping time: A SOLID MONTH. Sheesh. The biggest downside is that since a single order from Taobao can be from different retailers, all your stuff can arrive at different times, which can make the whole receive-a-present-from-yourself thing a little… anti-climatic.
Would I shop again? All that said… probably not, unless someone kindly offers to help with my order. It’s just too much of a hassle; online shopping should be something enjoyable, not remind you of the fear you had embarking on a Chinese comprehension.



3. Tobi

Now this one’s just completely unfounded. Based in California, Tobi features a sleek, polished site with original lookbooks, and is quite easily a favourite amongst fashion bloggers and YouTubers. And it’s not even that cheap! If anything, it’s probably the permanent “50% off storewide” sales (50% off your first order too) that seem a little sketchy to first-timers.



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(The product image got taken down, probably OOS.)

Haters gonna hate, but I’m sold. I can’t even fathom why Tobi would be included in a hate list – their product images are 100% original and well-shot, they personally cast their models, and they sell quality clothing any online brand would be proud to stock. In fact, the layout and photography reminds me a lot of a less frisky NastyGal, which can only ever be a good thing. My buys fit great, and are even better quality than some of the NastyGal pieces I’ve purchased before.


Rating: 8.5/10
Shipping time: 2-3 weeks
Would I shop again? Yes! Although it’ll have to be a while before my next order seeing as the prices aren’t that competitive.



4. SheIn

Formerly known as SheInside, this Asian wholesale site is probably a not-so-distant relative of Romwe, given that they’re both based in China, and have very similar site layouts and product images (ie. stolen, sorry). SheIn is possibly also the website to have received the most flak, for poor customer service, lost packages, and general dissatisfaction with the delivered product. Yikes.



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Did I get lucky again? All my items came in the expected cheap, clear packaging of many Chinese retail sites – but in stellar condition. The fit was right, the products looked like what the pictures promised, and the material looked pretty good too – like what you’d get from any fast fashion retailer out there. A tip: unless it’s something you’re dying to have, go for items that have customer photo reviews, or that you know will generally fit okay (so outerwear and basic tops are usually fine).


Rating: 8/10
Shipping time: 2 weeks
Would I shop again? Probably, even if it’s just to test whether my first order really was beginner’s luck.


Final thoughts?

Don’t knock it till you’ve tried it. My personal take is that the stuff sold on these Asian wholesale websites naturally fit us better, since they’re tailored for smaller physiques – so we have the upper hand! Also, you’re better off purchasing safer pieces that can’t deviate too far from pictures, stolen or not (I’m a little more cautious when buying bottoms online anyway). For more peace of mind, watch a few YouTube reviews of the site you’re thinking of trying – even if they are sponsored posts framed within a positive review, at least you’ll get to see the products in the video to make an informed judgment for yourself. And honestly, most of the stuff is so cheap; what’ve you got to lose?


Featured image from taobao.com and romwe.com