When Florian Ellsaesser, 29, launched the online-platform Front Row Society (FRS) a year ago, he was motivated to challenge established conventions within the fashion industry by involving customers early in the fashion creation process and supporting emerging designers. "We are a platform that bridges untapped artistic talent with the public community," explains Alex Babahmadi, the company's PR and Social Media Assistant, in an interview with The Genteel.
|Abstract Blossom Scarf by Alina Nonu.
The concept is simple: once a month, FRS calls on artists to enter their designs in FRS' online competition. Visitors of FRS' webpage vote for their favourite design and the five most popular submissions go into production. "There is a general trend towards democratisation [in fashion] and people want to participate in what they consume. They don't just want to have the final results in front of them," says Ellsaesser in explaining the success of FRS.
Through the platform, FRS is able to reveal what buyers really want and anticipate trends before a product is produced and sold in stores. "The average voter on FRS is female, between 30- and 35-years-old and very interested in fashion. They want to experience something new and want to have something more special and not just follow mass-market trends," says Ellsaesser.
Every month, FRS produces 100 limited edition units of each of the five designs. Once produced, products are immediately available on FRS' online boutique and in stores all over Europe, London, New York and, of course, Berlin. FRS is growing and, after the June competition, the company anticipates that it will begin producing 200 units per design, claims Ellsaesser during the interview. At the moment, competitions are only for scarves, but clutches and bags from past competitions are still available for purchase online.
In explaining the goals of FRS, Babahmadi explains that, "There is a trend for fashion to be cheap, stylish and disposable. But we [FRS] are not like that at all. People need to be more ethical when it comes to fashion." FRS collaborates with the London-based Ethical Fashion Forum and advocates for a sustainable fashion movement. "We only work with certified non-child labour companies to produce our pieces, which should actually go without saying," Ellsaesser points out. One euro of every piece sold, whether online or in stores, goes to Ethical Fashion Forum and the company only uses organic material for packaging.
The FRS team consists of nine members and is as multicultural as Berlin itself. "It [FRS] is a good reflection of the city of Berlin," reflects Ellsaesser. Babahmadi, for example, is British. Ellsaesser was born in Berlin and is the only German member in the team. Other team members are from Portugal, Canada, France, Sweden and Spain.
Ellsaesser understands the creative impulse that the German capital provides. Many of the designers contributing to FRS live in Berlin but were born all over the world. Their struggles to get by were part of the incentive for Ellsaesser to establish FRS. Ellsaesser graduated from Judge Business School at the University of Cambridge with a Ph.D, specialising in causal inference within the social sciences. He worked at McKinsey for a few years before he decided to implement his fashion start-up.
It is Ellsaesser's hope that FRS not only helps promote and sell the designs of emerging artists, but also provides a platform from which artists can tell their stories and connect with their audience. Every piece for sale has an informational tag about the designer and a QR code to scan with a smartphone. The video that starts upon scanning can be, for example, an interview with the designer wherein he or she explains the story behind the product. Ellsaesser emphasises, "We don't want the competition to be the most important thing - it's more about creating a community."
Berlin attracts all sorts of creative artists; the FRS platform helps to source worthy emerging designers and assist them in establishing connections within the fashion industry. "There is so much talent out there and it's so hard for them to get their designs across," emphasises Babahmadi. FRS aims to inspire people to be creative, by breaking down some of the barriers to becoming a designer. It wants to motivate its users to participate and be inspired. Babahmadi points out: "It's about leaving your comfort zone and being creative. To get outside and be amazing."
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