A transformative form of finance and participative product design, crowdfunding—a practice in which entrepreneurs enlist customers to support their endeavors financially upfront prior to production—has made a significant impact on industries like real estate, non-profits, science, music, and now fashion.
In recent years, more and more fashion brands have been turning to crowdfunding not just to raise money but to also garner feedback on their designs. Getting early input from and support for their projects can make or break a young company, especially in the fashion world where there are a lot of upfront costs associated with production before a designer sells their first product.
In a 2014 article she penned for Entrepreneur magazine titled “How Crowdfunding Is Changing the Fashion Business,” author Elizabeth Bates reflected on the evolution of crowdfunding.
Speaking from experience, the founder of The Petite Shop—a now-defunct site that enabled women of smaller stature to shop fan-funded capsule collections from established and indie designers—noted how the concept of crowdfunding is mutually beneficial for consumers and designers alike.
“It gives the designers a low-risk way of entering the huge petite market (over 47 percent of American women are 5’ 4” and shorter), and the retailer the ability to provide customers more variety in a cost-effective way as they’re not investing in inventory that may or may not sell. Particularly in niche markets like petite apparel where designers have largely neglected the market, this type of approach gives women options they’ve never had before and designers access to new revenue streams. It also serves as a data-driven fashion laboratory in which the designer and retailer can better understand what petite women are seeking in petite sizing in order to guide future offerings.”
In the world of crowdfunding, sites like Kickstarter—which has raised 4 billion dollars from nearly 20 million backers to fund almost half a million projects since launching in 2009—and Indiegogo are seen as industry leaders.
Those two sites, however, are not the only platforms. In recent years, a number of noteworthy sites have emerged that are specifically geared toward raising money for fashion designers to produce new designs. Here is a list of those top sites.
- Teespring: This site lets anyone upload a t-shirt design, set a sales goal, and start a crowdfunding campaign around it. If you're successful, the site ships the shirts to your backers. While some projects on the site have sold just a handful of t-shirts, others have sold tens of thousands. It's a great, no-risk way to launch a new t-shirt design.
- Born: Here's how the European crowdfunding site for fashion describes itself: "It is a space where people, collectively, can invest in great creative projects. It is where the great designer brands of tomorrow can be brought to life today." Born is backed by the same group that puts on the BELIEVE COURCHEVEL, a 14-week celebration of design and art in the French Alps.
- Gustin: Gustin isn't a marketplace of designers, it's a menswear label, with a twist. Instead of producing new shirts and jeans and hoping consumers will buy, each design is crowdfunded, and if significant support is earned by the community, those products get produced and shipped.
- Before the Label: Another fashion crowdfunding platform, Before the Label, is a way for the public to decide what styles get made and which don't. The site allows people to back a project by an up-and-coming designer and pre-buy the exact product they want.