Jennie Baik Sends You Into a Virtual Shopping Wonderland With Orchard Mile


Jennie Baik, co-founder of Orchard Mile sat down with our founder, Iman Oubou to discuss how she has worked to reinvent the online shopping experience as we know it with her creation of Orchard Mile, the ultimate virtual shopping mall. According to Baik, the name Orchard Mile comes from Orchard Road in Singapore, which is similar to 5th Avenue or Rodeo Drive in the U.S. and ‘Mile’ refers to the Magnificent Mile in Chicago – the city’s most upscale shopping and dining section.

“With retail, as more and more retail doors are closing, people really do want to see the full collection of every designer. The experience that we’re bringing is that you can have all the access to all of the collections."

-Jennie Baik

The two names represent what seems like the mall in the sky as Orchard Mile is home to dozens of designers in the luxury, contemporary and athleisure markets that sell their full collections on the site’s marketplace. Orchard Mile sells anything from Tom Ford perfume to Carolina Herrera evening gowns to Paige denim to Giuseppe Zanotti shoes. The best part? Each designer features their full collections on Orchard Mile’s site. The founder goes on to explain that only five to 10 percent of fashion brand’s digital sales are from their own website – the other 90 to 95 percent of their sales come from navigators, wholesalers, specialty stores, and the like.

Chandra Leather Mini Chain Clutch. Courtesy of Orchard Mild

But with Orchard Mile, the designers that are featured on the site buy into the marketplace, creating a direct consumer transaction, which is “really exciting for brands, and is more economical to be placed in this marketplace environment,” explains Baik.

Into You Halter Playsuit. Courtesy of Orchard Mile

Baik’s journey to creating Orchard Mile is quite untraditional. While most entrepreneurs will recommend starting a company with people you know on some level, Baik’s co-founders were all essentially strangers when they decided to start the marketplace after meeting at a networking event.

“Some people will debate me and say you probably made the wrong decision, but actually, I think what you want in a co-founder is a business skill set.”

-Jennie Baik

She then explained to Iman that the decision to join her co-founders wasn’t immediate, and that, just like dating, she took about six months to “think about it.”

The founder also states that upon going to the networking event where she met her co-founders, that she wasn’t necessarily looking to start a business and enter the world of entrepreneurship. With a very diverse background from working with a friend with a fashion brand startup company in the beginning of her career. to finance, to consulting, and then to heading up the customer experience team at Burberry, Baik did not strategically set out to start Orchard Mile right away.

Like most startups, the daily operations at Orchard Mile are not exactly as glamorous as fashion lovers would think. “We’re not building a fashion company - we’re building a really interesting marketplace. About 5 percent of our business is that kind of [fun] stuff,” explains Baik. The fun refers to the runway shows, champagne-filled parties and blogger-like Instagram posts that many believe the fashion industry is like.

The founders, which include Jennie Baik, Julia LeClair and Mortimer Singer, started the company in November 2014 and officially launched in November 2015. What we were doing was building the tech product and signing the brands. ”Just signing the first working brands was so difficult,” explains the co-founder, since you can’t have a mall without the merchandise. Baik explained to Iman the difficulties the team faced when meeting with the different designers in the initial stages of contracting brands to be featured on the site and just how much background research had to be done on each prospective client when pitching the Orchard Mile to them – so much research that the Oscar de la Renta team thought that they had been hacked for all their data.

To hear more about Jennie’s run down the Orchard Mile, challenges she’s faced along the way, and how she selects her prospective employees, check out the Facebook live video.

The Orchard Mile can be found on Instagram at @OrchardMile.


A Modern Day Witch Hunt: How Caster Semenya's Gender Became A Hot Topic In The Media

Gender divisions in sports have primarily served to keep women out of what has always been believed to be a male domain. The idea of women participating alongside men has been regarded with contempt under the belief that women were made physically inferior.

Within their own division, women have reached new heights, received accolades for outstanding physical performance and endurance, and have proven themselves to be as capable of athletic excellence as men. In spite of women's collective fight to be recognized as equals to their male counterparts, female athletes must now prove their womanhood in order to compete alongside their own gender.

That has been the reality for Caster Semenya, a South African Olympic champion, who has been at the center of the latest gender discrimination debate across the world. After crushing her competition in the women's 800-meter dash in 2016, Semenya was subjected to scrutiny from her peers based upon her physical appearance, calling her gender into question. Despite setting a new national record for South Africa and attaining the title of fifth fastest woman in Olympic history, Semenya's success was quickly brushed aside as she became a spectacle for all the wrong reasons.

Semenya's gender became a hot topic among reporters as the Olympic champion was subjected to sex testing by the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF). According to Ruth Padawer from the New York Times, Semenya was forced to undergo relentless examination by gender experts to determine whether or not she was woman enough to compete as one. While the IAAF has never released the results of their testing, that did not stop the media from making irreverent speculations about the athlete's gender.

Moments after winning the Berlin World Athletics Championship in 2009, Semenya was faced with immediate backlash from fellow runners. Elisa Cusma who suffered a whopping defeat after finishing in sixth place, felt as though Semenya was too masculine to compete in a women's race. Cusma stated, "These kind of people should not run with us. For me, she is not a woman. She's a man." While her statement proved insensitive enough, her perspective was acknowledged and appeared to be a mutually belief among the other white female competitors.

Fast forward to 2018, the IAAF issued new Eligibility Regulations for Female Classification (Athlete with Differences of Sexual Development) that apply to events from 400m to the mile, including 400m hurdles races, 800m, and 1500m. The regulations created by the IAAF state that an athlete must be recognized at law as either female or intersex, she must reduce her testosterone level to below 5 nmol/L continuously for the duration of six months, and she must maintain her testosterone levels to remain below 5 nmol/L during and after competing so long as she wishes to be eligible to compete in any future events. It is believed that these new rules have been put into effect to specifically target Semenya given her history of being the most recent athlete to face this sort of discrimination.

With these regulations put into effect, in combination with the lack of information about whether or not Semenya is biologically a female of male, society has seemed to come to the conclusion that Semenya is intersex, meaning she was born with any variation of characteristics, chromosomes, gonads, sex hormones, or genitals. After her initial testing, there had been alleged leaks to media outlets such as Australia's Daily Telegraph newspaper which stated that Semenya's results proved that her testosterone levels were too high. This information, while not credible, has been widely accepted as fact. Whether or not Semenya is intersex, society appears to be missing the point that no one is entitled to this information. Running off their newfound acceptance that the Olympic champion is intersex, it calls into question whether her elevated levels of testosterone makes her a man.

The IAAF published a study concluding that higher levels of testosterone do, in fact, contribute to the level of performance in track and field. However, higher testosterone levels have never been the sole determining factor for sex or gender. There are conditions that affect women, such as PCOS, in which the ovaries produce extra amounts of testosterone. However, those women never have their womanhood called into question, nor should they—and neither should Semenya.

Every aspect of the issue surrounding Semenya's body has been deplorable, to say the least. However, there has not been enough recognition as to how invasive and degrading sex testing actually is. For any woman, at any age, to have her body forcibly examined and studied like a science project by "experts" is humiliating and unethical. Under no circumstances have Semenya's health or well-being been considered upon discovering that her body allegedly produces an excessive amount of testosterone. For the sake of an organization, for the comfort of white female athletes who felt as though Semenya's gender was an unfair advantage against them, Semenya and other women like her, must undergo hormone treatment to reduce their performance to that of which women are expected to perform at. Yet some women within the athletic community are unphased by this direct attempt to further prove women as inferior athletes.

As difficult as this global invasion of privacy has been for the athlete, the humiliation and sense of violation is felt by her people in South Africa. Writer and activist, Kari, reported that Semenya has had the country's undying support since her first global appearance in 2009. Even after the IAAF released their new regulations, South Africans have refuted their accusations. Kari stated, "The Minister of Sports and Recreation and the Africa National Congress, South Africa's ruling party labeled the decision as anti-sport, racist, and homophobic." It is no secret that the build and appearance of Black women have always been met with racist and sexist commentary. Because Black women have never managed to fit into the European standard of beauty catered to and in favor of white women, the accusations of Semenya appearing too masculine were unsurprising.

Despite the countless injustices Semenya has faced over the years, she remains as determined as ever to return to track and field and compete amongst women as the woman she is. Her fight against the IAAF's regulations continues as the Olympic champion has been receiving and outpour of support in wake of the Association's decision. Semenya is determined to run again, win again, and set new and inclusive standards for women's sports.