At just 21 years old, Eugene Liu is helping hundreds of artists from the next generation of artists and fashion designers get their start.
The San Francisco-based coder told WWD he got the idea for Threadfunder, his free crowdfunding website, during final exams at UC Davis, where he studies law. “My social media is really fashion-based, so I noticed that many artists would show concept clothing designs they wanted to release, but most of the time these artists would never actually launch their designs,” Liu said.
Acknowledging that the largest barrier preventing these designs from being produced was funding, Liu decided to create a free website that aspiring designers could use to showcase their clothing design concepts to enable the designers to quickly raise the money needed to have the designs manufactured. “I wanted to make the website free for everyone to use since there were many designs that I personally loved and wanted to buy, and I knew the website would not take me too long to make,” Liu said.
Immediately after turning in his last final exam, Liu began coding, launching the first version of Threadfunder just five days later.
On Threadfunder, designers and artists can easily create a listing by adding images that showcase a concept and designs. The images can be pictures of physical samples of the design or photo-edited mockups. Users can then share listings with the world.
“The listings are also displayed on our homepage so that people looking to support rising designers can easily browse,” Liu said. “Listings allow supporters to pledge that they will preorder the design if the creator decides they want to actually produce it.”
To make a pledge to purchase, supporters input payment information and are only charged if the creator produces the design. If the creator does collect the pledge, there is a small processing fee charged for each pledge taken from the payment processor.
“Anyone can go to Threadfunder.com and create a listing,” Liu said. “The process is super simple. Creators showcase concept clothing designs with pictures and can write anything they want pledgers to know. Then they just have to set a pledge price.”
Notably, Liu told WWD that the images don’t require an over-the-top photo shoot. Designers have successfully raised money through Threadfunder showing samples they have created themselves and through mock-ups.
“I built Threadfunder because I noticed it was very difficult for aspiring designers to launch a clothing brand with cut and sew products if they did not have money,” Liu said. “My goal with Threadfunder is to change this so that anyone with just a good clothing design concept can easily get the funding they need to launch their designs and their own clothing brand.”
An early Threadfunder creator, Ahmed Mohamed, a 20-year-old design student from Auckland, New Zealand, has used crowdfunding to successfully raise $1,360 for his “Rebirth Jacket” design. The funding has allowed Mohamed to pay for a website of his own and make a deposit for manufacturing.
The amazing part is that he was able to raise enough money just by sharing his Threadfunder listing on his social media accounts,” Liu said. “I’m super excited for him because he has since successfully created a website and launched his brand Divided Nation.”
Importantly, Liu acknowledged that not every design posted on Threadfunder will successfully lead to a pledge collection, but he sees this as a potentially good thing for designers as it allows a designer to quickly test demand for a design to find out if there is interest before investing in production.
“No one wants to find out that their design is not going to sell out, but it’s much better to discover this before you invest your time and money into manufacturing, that way you can quickly go back to the drawing board and continue testing designs,” Liu said. “For example, a 19-year-old from Munich, Germany, was able to raise a couple of hundred dollars through Threadfunder just by sharing his listing, which showed the front and back of a T-shirt design he photoshopped together. Ultimately, he decided to cancel the listing and not collect pledges, which exemplifies how risk-free it is to use Threadfunder. Pledgers were not charged, and the creator can always try again with another design.”
It’s a “live to fight another day” opportunity, according to Liu. Looking forward, Liu said he sees the potential for brands can use Threadfunder to make decisions about what to manufacture.
“I hope established brands will also consider using Threadfunder to test demand for their upcoming product lines before manufacturing them,” Liu said. “Threadfunder can help brands decide not to manufacture designs that people do not want in the first place. I’m excited to see if Threadfunder can help reduce waste in the fashion industry and the negative environmental impact associated with this kind of waste.”
While the company is still in its early stages, Liu plans to continue to evolve Threadfunder and is taking all feedback from users. Liu told WWD he is excited to see more designers experience success stories.
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