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The Fashion Business Club

FBC is a business-focused members club, created on the basis of bringing bright-minded fashion professionals together at an informal venue to listen to inspiring speakers, learn and do business together.

An interview with founding members Alison Whelan, chairman and Courtney Blackman, vice- chairman.

How did FBC come about?
CB - The idea of FBC was actually born on the social networking site ASMALLWORLD in December of 2005. I had invited Alison to join the site and an open discussion about a petroleum business club sparked Alison into creating a club for fashion business professionals.

She asked me what I thought. I thought it sounded like a great idea so she popped over to mine the next day and we mapped out what we wanted it to be: a members-only club for the fashion industry to meet up, listen to inspiring speakers, and do business together. Alison has always held the vision of the club, and I’ve acted as the managing director with support from an excellent committee of volunteers.

In January of 2006, we had our inaugural meeting in central London at 3:00pm and 75 people turned up. We knew we were on to something. We decided to keep the meetings set at 3:00pm, as they are intended to be business meetings, and holding them six times a year made the most sense as FBC is both Alison and mine’s second business, so every other month is about all the time we can dedicated to organising meetings at the moment! We’re really excited for 2009 as we continue to welcome fantastic new members and we have an amazing lineup of speakers including Harold Tillman, Alexandra Shulman, Felder Felder and Nathan Jenden.

What does FBC have to offer fashion insiders?
CB - FBC provides fashion professionals with a safe place to network and garner new business with fellow colleagues from the industry that have all been vetted by our board of Alison and myself, Editor, Dolly Jones, and fashion illustrator, Daisy de Villeneuve. Our six annual meetings put the top of the industry in front of our members who are encouraged to ask questions and interact. This kind of access hasn’t been available before and really shakes up the longstanding hierarchy. – Courtney Blackman, co-chairman & co-founder

With the current economic climate does FBC become more important to its members?
AW - FBC is filled with potential new business opportunities and resources. As I’ve already mentioned I recommend people from within the club and if I’m doing that I’m sure many other members are too. Being part of FBC during this time is great for a number of reasons:
- This may be your first recession but imagine what Harold Tillman will have to say on the subject, the invaluable experience he can offer coupled with the kind of business acumen Lauretta Roberts will bring to the table?
- Because we are all fashion professionals and the attendees list is distributed before the meeting to members, there is a great opportunity to meet up with someone you’re interested in working with before or after the meeting.
- FBC encourages networking, the challenge is always to walk away from our meetings with at least 3 new contacts and a new burst of energy for your business.
- Personal contacts are everything in our business - and we have lots of those.
- Running your own business can be isolating and its always good fun to meet up with colleagues face-to-face, every 2 months, around a set event.

What is in the pipeline for spring and autumn 09?
CB - We’re holding our first meeting of 2009 at Central London business club, One Alfred Place. For spring, we’re hoping to solidify this venue or another venue as our permanent nest and continue expansion of our membership base. Our ultimate goal has always been to have our own Central London location, so autumn of 2009 will focus on raising the capital to move forward.

How do you find/chose your members?
CB, co-chairman & co-founder- The initial crop of our members were all hand-selected by Alison and myself, and membership has grown through word-of-mouth and through our members proposing their contacts. The only requirements that we have for FBC is that our members have at least two years working as a professional in the fashion industry, and a willingness to share their knowledge and expertise. We also encourage our members to promote each other in areas of business.

AW - We set the club up on the ethos of sharing and generosity, so it’s important potential members understand that - we’re not interested in ‘what can I take?’, it’s much more of a ‘what can I share?’ attitude. Essentially 80% of our members have been hand picked, mostly by Courtney who’s far more confident and will happily chat about FBC to relevant people and virtually pull out an application form there and then! We set the club up on the ethos of sharing and generosity, so it’s important potential

CB - We have a website that states all of this and anyone is welcome to download an application and apply for membership. We also have a presence on Facebook and IQONS.

The next meeting is January 29 with Harold Tillman, chairman of the British Fashion Council and owner of Jaeger and Allders as our guest speaker, interviewed by FBC member and editor of Drapers, Lauretta Roberts.

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