Monday, April 12, 2010

Crowd sourcing to raise the fashion stakes

A new Internet company called Fashion Stake will be launching shortly and it looks like it might significantly shake up the fashion industry. The idea is to use a growing business model called crowd sourcing to enable fashion designers to go directly to consumers for funding and content. Essentially, Fashion Stake will provide consumers with a chance to invest their own money directly into a designer’s new collection, which will help keep the designer’s business afloat; especially useful as funding is scarce after the recent downturn. In return, your investment is exchanged for credits, which can be used to purchase items from the collection. As well as this, consumers can share ideas and thoughts with designers and vote on collections.

The concept is inspired by social media networks such as Twitter and Facebook, enabling consumers to have their own say about fashion, removing the choice from the hands of a team of executives or a third party (the retailer). The joint-founder Daniel Gulati, a student at Harvard Business School, believes his business gives the public the opportunity to develop a more personal relationship with their preferred designers and enables them to provide financial support to products they would like to see produced en masse.

The company’s slogan is ‘democratize fashion’ and it sounds like the founders have cleverly found a way to bypass the retailer altogether and truly bring the freedom of fashion expression to the people. However, it is difficult to know how the designers will react to random outsiders giving them advice and scrutiny. A designer’s aim is to predict future looks that regular people don’t comprehend at the time. Advice from a store Buyer or Creative Director may be called upon and respected but information from strangers may not be what the designers need or want.

As well as this, there have been rumblings about the legality of the business. However, there are always a few hiccups with new businesses (especially when they are developing new concepts) so as long as these get ironed out it could potentially develop into the future of fashion.

I think this is a totally innovative idea to bring fashion to the masses. If it works well then it will be a massive shake up and a revolution for the industry. Designers will no longer need to plead with big sponsors and investors, they can go directly to their fans: the people who would ultimately purchase the products. I think it provides an extremely exciting possibility for both designers and consumers!

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