INTERNATIONAL NEWS FEED: LONDON, United Kingdom — In recent years, several of London’s leading young womenswear designers have built formidable emerging businesses, defying the British capital’s long-standing reputation as a centre of unfettered creativity where commercial success remains elusive. Now, the British Fashion Council aims to drive a similar evolution in London’s menswear scene. Finally!
“There is a raft of brilliantly creative womenswear businesses that are now starting to achieve great commercial success. And that is completely our ambition for menswear. If we can take our emerging talent and build those businesses in the way that we have seen the growth in womenswear, London is just going to get stronger and stronger,” Caroline Rush, chief executive of The British Fashion Council told BoF. “What we want to get away from is people saying, ‘Oh look at those poor young start-up designers, aren’t they incredibly creative?’ and get to, ‘Wow, what an incredibly exciting business, how do I invest, how do I get involved?”
In only four seasons, London’s menswear week, London Collections: Men, has earned its place on the global menswear calendar, cementing its success as a powerful communications platform for brands large and small. But despite the fact that buyer attendance and sales volume continue to grow each season, LC:M’s impact as a driver of actual business remains significantly behind that of well-established menswear events in Florence, Milan and Paris.
‘Business,’ however, is one of BFC chairman Natalie Massenet’s five strategic pillars for London fashion. And the success of womenswear-focused initiatives like the BFC/Vogue Fashion Fund — which has provided past winners, including Christopher Kane, Peter Pilotto, Nicholas Kirkwood and Erdem with funding and business mentoring — have helped to reposition London Fashion Week as a commercially viable event.
On Monday evening, the inaugural BFC/GQ Designer Menswear Fund (£150,000 prize money and mentoring from experts) was awarded to Christopher Shannon. “We copied their idea. As a model for this kind of award, [the BFC/Vogue Fashion Fund] is very, very good, we have adapted it slightly, taken some learnings from the American model and adapted it to suit our needs, but it’s a pretty great model,” said Dylan Jones, chair of the London Collections: Men committee and editor of GQ (UK), who hopes the prize will play a meaningful role in making London a menswear centre, not only of emerging designers, but of emerging businesses.
The commercial focus of the new fund was apparent from the very start of the process. Applicants were asked to submit business plans to the panel, from which the shortlist was selected: Christopher Raeburn, Christopher Shannon, E-Tautz, Lou Dalton and Richard Nicoll.
The finalists were then granted four one-to-one mentoring sessions with senior figures at Alexander McQueen (commercial strategy), Fourmarketing (wholesale, retail and e-tail), All Saints (digital strategy) and the fund’s sponsor Vertu (finance, branding and leadership).
“The important thing, in terms of who wins the prize is: are they getting the money at the right time and what will they do with that money? I spent more time looking at their business plans and how they are articulating their growth process, their ambitions, than looking at their clothes,” said Jones, part of the nine-member jury who picked the winner. “It is not just about nurturing great talent, we have a lot of great talent in this country, it is about channelling the funds to the person who is going to best use them.”
Resource: BOF, BFC, GQ