The British Fashion Council is to encourage burgeoning fashion designers to consider the opportunities presented by the high street, rather than solely focusing on the rarefied world of the catwalk, with the launch of a new initiative on Wednesday.
Titled BFC Contemporary, the eBay-sponsored scheme will offer a handful of designers tailored programmes of advice and mentoring with a view to high-street success. Women’s ready-to-wear designers Alexis Barrell, Georgia Harding, Paper London, Zoë Jordan and sunglasses and swimwear brand Prism, have been selected for the inaugural season.
As part of the scheme, the designers will create limited edition pieces to be sold within a specialist BFC Contemporary Shop on eBay, at Somerset House at the BFC’s London Fashion Week pop-up shop in September.
The initiative was launched in response to increasing global demand for “contemporary” fashion – labels such as Acne, The Kooples, Maje and Sandro which sit at the high end of the high street but do not usually show during fashion weeks. In the UK, the market is relatively small, and contemporary designers tends not to enjoy the profile of their catwalk counterparts. Here, says the BFC’s Sophie McElligott, “we pride ourselves on young creatives showing extravagant catwalk collections, and they are brilliant, but some designers want to dress more people and to do it more quickly. This is about seeing those designers not as a niche presence but as a part of London fashion week and the British Fashion Council.”
“Often, when fashion students graduate, they are encouraged to become catwalk designers and to focus on showing at London fashion week” she continues. “We recognised that a lot of designers can’t afford to start their business by creating high-end artisinal pieces, or by putting on fashion shows, which are very expensive. There is nothing wrong with that system, but it’s not for everyone.”