I was recently invited onto the judging panel for the Centre for Fashion Enterprise’s latest New Fashion Pioneer programme, which helps young designers and growing brands by offering business mentoring and support.
When meeting the 10 candidates seeking backing from the scheme it was amazing to see the number of people from all areas of fashion, including menswear, womenswear and accessories, setting up and struggling through their first seasons with such energy. And the entrepreneurial imagination, creative innovation and design leadership on show was impressive.
The power of the digital world stood out as an important factor, with many candidates finding new and interesting ways to start and then grow their businesses. Several are already successfully selling clothes and making money in a way that doesn’t involve a single trade show, sales appointment or wholesale price point.
One brand was set up entirely off the back of funds from crowdsourcing website Kickstarter. This meant more than 100 orders were placed and an impressive £20,000 banked before any pieces had been produced.
Another young brand is seeing etail success off the back of its savvy use of social media. A link to the creator’s popular style blog and smart use of its followers means customers are engaging with the brand and then buying pieces - some costing up to £650 - as soon as they are put online. Not bad for a brand in its fourth season.
It’s great that such talent exists here and that brands are experimenting and pioneering new ways to sell. Who knows, maybe they could teach the big brands a trick or two.