eBay is well-known for being the destination of fashion conscious deal seekers looking to score a steal on everything from luxury fashion to fashionable essentials. Now, the online marketplace is taking its involvement on the fashion scene to a whole new level with its partnership with the British Fashion Council (BFC) by sponsoring the Fashion Forward initiative.
As one of the largest online shopping destinations in the UK, the recent deal is a major boon for up-and-coming British designers as they clamour to gain a foothold in the increasingly competitive global fashion market. Launched six years ago, Fashion Forward is an initiative that offers business support to new and emerging UK-based designers in an effort to help them further cultivate their brands and raise their profiles. It also gives designers funding to show their collections at two consecutive seasons of London Fashion Week.
Among the 2012 winners were the six-time recipient of NEWGEN sponsorship, Mary Katrantzou, Henry Holland and James Long, whose signature knitwear may well be one of the coming season's top trends. This year's judging committee is a combination of key industry representatives, including Francesca Burns, fashion editor at British Vogue, and Caroline Rush, CEO of BFC. In addition, Melanie Smallwood, head of eBay Fashion Brands, will now be part of the selection panel, highlighting eBay's intention of long-term involvement with the initiative.
In an increasingly competitive fashion market, establishing a brand can be challenging and perhaps one of the key drivers behind this joint partnership is the opportunity for BFC to elevate the profile of its designers through its involvement with eBay. But an even more critical component in this ongoing project is the £4.2m grant that the London Development Agency awarded BFC in 2007. According to the Greater London Authority, one of the components of the grant requires the BFC not only offer designers business support, but also contribute to elevating London's Fashion Week on a global scale, which further underscores the significance of the BFC's partnership with eBay.
While the support eBay can offer designers is invaluable, it appears that this venture is just as much about establishing eBay as a retail destination as it is about raising the company's profile in the fashion world. "eBay's sales statistics are overwhelming and we hope they will help to bring opportunities to the designers they support," said Rush. Smallwood also finds eBay's brand diversity to be among its strengths, making it so much more than an auction site. "You'll find high street brands selling direct alongside smaller boutiques and international businesses as well as consumer sellers," explains Smallwood. She continues, "eBay Fashion unites style seekers and enables you to shop anytime and anywhere."
For 2012, eBay is hoping to add between 40 to 60 new retailers and brands to its fashion arm. With more than 100 high-street brands and over 30 major retailers on eBay, including House of Fraser and Karen Millen, the company continues to cultivate the rapid growth of online shopping. According to eBay, four million shoppers were searching clothing, shoes and accessories on the site during a one-month period - twice as many shoppers when compared to March 2010. With eBay's UK fashion business growing between 20-30% last year, it's surpassing the growth rate of UK e-commerce overall (10.9 per cent per year).
Beyond backing up-and-coming designers, the partnership will also support charitable organisations including Save the Children's fashion auction initiative, Born to Shop. According to British Vogue, the fundraising project will feature donations from Britain's leading designers and celebrities that will be available to the highest bidder through a 10-day live online fashion auction during London Fashion Week.
While eBay is offering up its multi-season support, with more than 640,000 sellers already trading within eBay's fashion category, the company doesn't seem to be offering up prime online retail space to up-and-coming designers just yet. But if eBay is as invested as it appears to be, then it would only make sense that it will do so soon. That is, of course, if they are truly interested in pushing fashion forward.
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