The Year of the Crowd is in full swing; crowdfunding is taking off in 2013. While some industries are tapping into the crowd #momo with full force, others, like fashion, need to pull up their proverbial socks. The time has come for fashion designers and enthusiasts alike to start crowding the runway and funding designers of the future.

What is crowdfunding?

Crowdfunding is a collaborative funding process where individuals/entrepreneurs can raise funding for their projects/businesses from their networks through online platforms. Project creators make a short video and launch their project online, and project backers (the crowd) each donate different amounts of money until the project is funded. What started off as small experiment in 2009 with Kickstarter has now become a red-hot industry with an expected transaction volume of $5.1 Billion in 2013.

+ Funding the Niche

How is crowdfunding relevant to the fashion industry?

Crowdfunding is helping to move capital to the industries that need it most, and fashion is definitely at the top of that list right now. With the industry in need of a radical shift, crowdfunding can spur a new generation of fashion designers and help democratize the way clothes are created.

+ Avant Garde: Moving Fashion Forward

What’s happening right now?

Fashion designers and next-generation brands from all over the world are beginning to experiment with crowdfunding as a way to bring their new clothing lines to life.

Here are three examples of how clothing designers are starting to crowd the runway:

Wowcracy

Wowcracy went of its stealth mode on Sunday and opened up the site to start accepting projects. The Italian-based entity has been promo’ing their launch since late 2012, and it looks like the veil is about to be lifted on the crowdfunding portal that promises to bring ‘Endless Fashion Week’ to its collaborators.

Wowcracy will function using what’s known as the ‘pre-buy model,’ where project backers can collaborate to help bring new collections to life. Essentially, backers will pledge to pre-buy the garment or accessory of their choice, and if the entire campaign is funded (all or nothing) then they will (technically) donate the money to the designer and receive the specified garment when the collection is finished.

Expect to see live projects on Wowcracy in the coming weeks.

+ www.wowcracy.com

Kickstarter

Kickstarter is the original crowdfunding platform that sparked the global crowdfunding movement in 2009. After having helped project creators raise millions of dollars globally, the platform is now being used by fashion designers in selected countries (US and UK) to help get new collections off the ground.

One duo in New York recently decided to launch a crowdfunding campaign for their sustainable line of activewear, made using Merino wool.

To create Opus Fresh and start re-defining adventurewear, they were hoping to raise $15,000 USD over the 90 day time period. Well as you can see, they have blown that target out of the water and raised more than 300% of their original goal; and they still have a month and a half to go!

+ Strategies for a Successful Crowdfunding Campaign

Kickstarter is built to help get projects like this off the ground. While it’s not strictly a fashion-focused funding portal, like Wowcracy, it is another great option for aspiring fashion designers to bring their ideas to life.

+ Kickstarter: Fashion Projects

Everlane

Everlane is a US-based fashion retailer committed to shaking out the middleman and helping bring fashion back to its roots. When the company was thinking about how to approach the Canadian market, one of the engineers in the company came up with the idea to crowdfund their market entry to see if the demand was there. And so the #CrowdFundCanada campaign was born.

#CrowdFundCanada campaign

So the company created their own branded crowdfunding campaign with the goal of raising $100,000 to break into the Canadian market.

And they succeeded! By raising $118,000 through their #CrowdFundCanada campaign, Everlane showed that not only can crowdfunding be used to get off the ground, but also to enter new markets.

We talked about this strategy last year, in our Building Blocks for the #NewEraBiz series.

+ BB: Test Demand via Crowdfunding

Everlane is the best example we have seen of actually executing this strategy, showing how brands can use the collective crowd power to their advantage to blaze new trails and enter new markets.

Overall, the time to crowd the runway has come. With an abundance of creative talent and a shortage of capital, crowdfunding can help connect the dots between aspiring designers and would-be backers. Suit up for a spring full of crowdfunded fashion!


+ BMi: FASHION
+ Time For BMi


PLAN – the Business Model

Wake up, it’s 2013. The time has come to kick off those sweatshop sneakers and throw on those retro runners. In the midst of a systemic sustainability crisis, the fashion industry is being shaken down from head to toe in search of a new definition of style.

Now, the next generation of brands are getting set to step onto the runway and strut their stuff sans the heavy emphasis on eco and ethical. That’s why we went on the hunt for stylish, fashion-forward brands who are stepping up and moving away from the ‘sustainability’ sidelines. Here’s our look at some of the best examples of brands who are in tune with the La Mode of Branding for 2013 and beyond:

#Raison.d’etre : LINA.Lhu

As Paris is (according to our sources) the fashion capital of the world and ‘La Mode Ethique’ is hot in the French market, we started doing a little research to see how upstart French fashion enterprises were defining themselves.

One (seemingly) brand new company, in particular, caught our attention:

However, Lina Lhu is not an ‘eco’ or ‘bio’ brand. Lina Lhu is first and foremost a line of clothes that pleases and provides a certain pleasure, but without negligence towards the environment.

(roughly) translated from LINA Lhu site.

+ www.LinaLhu.com

What we love is how the focus is, above all, on giving the people that experience that they want when they buy clothes ; that tactile pleasure and sense of connection to the garment. That is the most important thing.

BUT the clothes are made of local materials and assembled in a country nearby (Poland), and they are created consciously with respect for the surrounding world.

Therefore, Lina Lhu is a company that produces beautiful clothes, not a bio / eco brand that happens to make garments. The clothes are built to be sexy, yet because they are ‘sustainable,’ they can be made again and again (and again) for years to come.

HAUTE.gamme : EILEEN.Fisher

Eileen Fisher is one of the most progressive ‘sustainable’ brands on the market.

The company’s high-end line of women’s clothes go way beyond aesthetics.

Unlike most other high-end brands, Eileen Fisher is not cut in the image of today’s mega-fashion houses who trade status for integrity.

In February, we saw an Eileen Fisher ad in the New York Time’s Style magazine.

The first 50 pages of the magazine have glossy ads with (mostly anorexic) models from top fashion brands who don’t even mention one word about how or where their clothes / handbags were made (hmmm why would that be …). But there, on the last page of the magazine away from all the other ads, is a subtle Ampersand ad that ever so casually mentions the following:

& We’d like you to know what we’re made of. A harem pant that’s manufactured in NYC, a reversible sweater that gets its strips from organic linen.

+ Eileen Fisher: Ampersand campaign

That just-for-your-information, no-need-to-shout approach is spot on and demonstrates the best way to embed sustainability into branding initiatives without yelling.

#FOTO.collage : NAU Clothing

In its brief history, PINTEREST, the new social network that blew up out of nowhere in 2012, has already reshaped the way brands engage with their audience online.

+ The Advent of Collaborative Commerce+

Visual, artistic, and clean, the Pinterest experience is much different from (cluttered) Facebook or (hyper) Twitter. For fashion brands, in particular, it gives a much better opportunity to convey the essence of the brand using a collage of photos.

Using NAU Clothing as an example, you can see that the company’s Pinterest page gives the feeling that the company cares about more than just clothes:

+ NAU Pinterest

After all, businesses are part of an ecosystem, both within their respective industries and in the world around them. Through a selection of photos that communicate certain themes, colours and designs, companies can create a certain feel using visual media.

In the NAU Pinterest collage, you can how they use photos of people in their clothes getting out there into the world around them, such as ‘NAU in motion.’ Other PIN Boards, such as ‘urban lifestyle’ and ‘wanderlust’ show how the company’s interests extend beyond their four office walls. And their ‘fabric deconstructed’ PIN Board is there to help educate you about the materials that go into their products.

After going through the NAU Pinterest boards, you certainly don’t get the feeling they would be the type of company making their garments in an undercover sweatshop in China.

#SANS.Sustainable

To make their mark on the mainstream, leading-edge ‘sustainable’ fashion brands need to move beyond the sustainable part.

An article last month in the Guardian Sustainable Business section hit the nail on the head:

So perhaps its time to drop the word ‘sustainable’ altogether.

Not only is the global fashion industry huge in its own right but it has the ability to do what organic and fair-trade vegetables never could, and that is to make sustainability cool.

+ Sustainable Fashion Needs to be Design-Led#

Making sustainability sexy and cool – that’s where the movement needs to go. Not in a trendy, lets-pose-for-Facebook-photos way, but in a bold and sincere manner that shows what fashion should really be about ; the beauty of the people wearing the clothes.


+ BMi: FASHION
+ Time For BMi


PLAN – the Business Model


+ BMi Services

The proverbial ground underneath the fashion industry is shifting, the vaunted halls of the world’s most established fashion empires are shaking. After decades of dominance and the creation of storied brands with enough clout to develop the very definition of style, the walls are starting to crumble. That’s because a new era of avant-garde fashion enterprises are moving in and seeking to redefine what it means to be fashionable – and today we will look at what a few of these companies are doing and why it’s working.

While the majority of world’s biggest luxury fashion brands continue to embarrass themselves and jeopardize their future in the name of ‘haute couture,’ a new breed of brands are emerging to make style sustainable. In other words, they are not plundering precious ecosystems, driving mammalian species to extinction or filling sweatshops in Asia with malnourished workers to get to the top of the fashion food chain. Instead these brands are using natural materials, faux furs and the labour of professional seamstresses to create garments of haut qualité.

Performance metrics based on environmental destruction and use of toxic chemicals for top luxury brands as reported on the Fashion Duel.

+ The Fashion Duel

Moving into their place is a new set of leaders in the fashion revolution, as they make the transition from competing only on ‘eco and ethical’ characteristics to going head-to-head on style. While ‘La Mode Ethique’ (ethical fashion) is certainly a growing and respectable market, we think it is the brands that are taking the ‘sustainable fashion’ fight to the mainstream who are the true leaders of the charge. After a (brief : ) blog on ‘The New Era of Fashion’ back in December, we are coming back to look at three companies who are moving fashion forward on a few different levels:

+ A New Era of Fashion

Osklen

Target : high-end fashion market in Brazil and the US

+ www.osklen.com

Osklen is a raw and rugged luxury brand that takes its inspiration from the beautiful beaches and lush rainforests of Brazil. Originally started by designer Oskar Metsavaht in the ‘80s, the Osklen line is inspired by nature and uses a range of natural and exotic materials to create collections of great quality and durability. What makes Osklen special is that it competes at the highest level of fashion, in the luxury market, but plays within nature’s rules. That’s because Mr. Metsavaht understands that design is, and always will be, the most important part of the clothes; however, he also knows that a brand does not need to break every ethical boundary to get there.

The company has gone far beyond creating a line of sustainable clothes in order to break the design-ethics paradigm in the industry. They have partnered with the Italian government on the Traces Project to advance the research and development of renewable materials that can be produced in a sustainable way. They have also setup Instituto E to share information related to next-gen fashion principles and build a network of partners to help turn Brazil into a global leader in sustainable development.

Early last year the company did a fashion show in honour of A21 (embedded below) and then followed that up with a first-time appearance in the New York Fashion Week with its Spring/Summer ’13 collection.

Nueluxe

Target : global luxury market

The name says it all. Nueluxe is bringing a stable of new luxe brands to a network of luxury-loving professionals who want it all : style, sustainability and substance.

While not strictly limited to fashion, Nueluxe has been going about its business of adding to its already impressive network of avant-garde ateliers from all over the world. Luxury brands are bar-none the worst when it comes to social, environmental and ethical performance, as they seem to stop at nothing to meet their uber-rich clienteles’ sophisticated tastes. That’s why Nueluxe is the seeing the opportunity to bring in a new wave of luxe brands, the ones who can create unmatched experiences without compromising the species that surround it.

+ Nueluxe : Wear

After all, that’s what sustainability is all about. Instead of allowing a few of the world’s wealthiest to consume a resource to extinction, the future of luxury is about creating experiences that future generations will be able to enjoy as well.

Members of the Nueluxe community can use the platform to learn and connect with the brands at the forefront of this change, and gain access to exclusive discounts and product offers. Check it out!

+ www.nueluxe.com

Modavanti

Target : everyday fashion buyers who are conscious about their purchases

+ www.modavanti.com

Derived from the Italian words ‘moda’ and ‘avanti,’ Modavanti is an online boutique that sells fully sustainable clothing lines. One of the major factors that separates Modavanti from other similar online retailers is the site’s design and branding. The site does not scream green, or sell clothes that are heavy on sustainability but light on style; instead it has created a store that looks like a real fashion store.

Modavanti makes sure there is real substance behind the brands you are buying. Beyond just selecting and stocking the brands, they have created a clean and colourful system to show the specific ‘sustainable charareristics’ of each brand. What’s even better is that they actually educate you about each characteristic on their Sustainability page.

Modavanti is showing what being fashion forward is all about. Unlike bloggers and industry insiders who write and tweet mindlessly about the hot colour for 2014 (pink, purple, yellow …), these guys have a vision for what the future of fashion will really look like … bellissimo!

What are the common threads that connect these brands?

None of the aforementioned companies incorporate eco or ethical into their name, or brand heavily around these themes. Rather they try and come out with a strong brand image that resonates with traditional consumers while at the same time educating their market about what they need to know.

The whole ‘eco and ethical’ category is very niche and represents 5% (at most 10%) of the market. For those brands that want to really make an impact on the mainstream market they need to embed sustainable principles into their collections and not try and win consumers over on strictly ‘ethical’ branding arguments.

People who are purchasing clothes are primarily interested in the style and price. If the clothes don’t look good, the average person is not going to buy them, even if they were made using organic materials from a poor rural village in India. If you want them to pay more because they were made using sustainable practices (research suggests they would pay a 10% premium, verus 25% for tailor made#), you need to educate them as to why and develop a premium brand image. It doesn’t conjure up images of sexiness and style to talk about ‘eco trousers’ or an ‘ethical short sleeve.’

This is especially important if you want to target generation Y. People in our generation expect things to have certain qualities and are not willing to sacrifice quality just to fit a certain ethical profile. The new breed of ‘sustainable brands,’ those whose end products are in-sync with their social and environmental surroundings, will find Gen Y to be a very big and receptive market. But to hit that market, brands need to still provide the emotional benefits that the ‘unsustainable alternatives’ would provide. When it comes to fashion, people just want to look good and rep brands that match their lifestyle.

Just like the food market has made the move to everything organic, fashion is in transition to become its own version of ‘sustainable.’ There has been a lot of recent movement at the top levels, thanks to campaigns like Detox fashion, despite the fact that many of the traditional luxury players seem to hobbled by their heritage. But the movement at the bottom is exploding, and by the time many major labels reach fully sustainable levels (by 2020 according many Detox responses), a new crop will be arising. So suit up and lace ‘em on, because the fashion revolution has begun.

Do you agree or disagree that avant-garde fashion enterprises should steer clear from being too focused on ethical and eco?


+ A New Era of Business : Fashion
+ Business Model Breakdown: Fashion 2.0


Building Blocks – PLAN – the Business Model