LONDON — TikTok has become the headline sponsor of the British Fashion Council’s NewGen program, further proof that digital platforms are rapidly taking the place of physical retailers, and traditional media outlets, as the cash-rich backers of fashion events and showcases.
The BFC said it will work with the short-form video platform to create a bespoke program of activity for all recipients of NewGen, its longest-standing platform for emerging talent.
Activity will include streaming support of designer shows, mentoring, master classes and digital support for the recipients. TikTok will also host a NewGen venue during London Fashion Week in September, with designer shows, content creation and hospitality opportunities.
“This partnership will also enable even more innovative fashion content to be shared across the entire TikTok ecosystem,” the BFC said, adding that it has also launched a TikTok account dedicated to NewGen, @bfcnewgen.
Applications for NewGen 2021-22 are now open, with details and criteria on the British Fashion Council’s website.
The BFC added that buy-now-pay-later platform Clearpay (known as Afterpay outside the U.K.), will also support NewGen as official partner.
This is not the first time that Clearpay/Afterpay has supported emerging brands in London, and in fashion capitals around the world. Last year, Clearpay was one of the corporate donors to the BFC Foundation Fashion Fund, alongside Amazon, the Coach Foundation and Browns.
In October Afterpay replaced Mercedes-Benz as the sponsor of Australian Fashion Week. The multiyear deal will see the week re-branded as Afterpay Australian Fashion Week, or AAFW.
NewGen, which started in 1993, is the BFC’s first and most recognized talent identification scheme. It offers designers financial grants, showcasing opportunities, individual mentoring and business training sessions to assist the designers as they develop their business infrastructure and skills.
According to the BFC, the program has supported 250 designers and acted as a promotional launch pad for talent including Alexander McQueen, Christopher Kane, Christopher Raeburn, Craig Green, Erdem Moralioglu, Grace Wales Bonner, Jonathan Anderson, Molly Goddard, Nicholas Kirkwood, Osman Yousefzada, Roksanda Ilincic and Simone Rocha.
Topshop and Topman, which were purchased earlier this week by Asos following the collapse of Sir Philip Green’s Arcadia Group, had long been headline sponsors of the British Fashion Council, and also of NewGen.
The Topshop/Topman collaboration with the BFC began in 2003, with Green and his team also setting up a seasonal runway show space during London Fashion Week in a bid to support young talent.
As recently as 2018, Topshop was hosting shows for designers including Preen by Thornton Bregazzi, Nicopanda, Shrimps, Molly Goddard and Charlotte Knowles.
Topshop and Topman were also supporters of the young talent showcases, Fashion East and Man, while Topshop showed its in-house Unique collection every season during London Fashion Week.
The fact that digital powerhouses TikTok and Clearpay have swooped in to support the BFC is a sign of the times, evidence that physical retail, and even the mainstream glossy magazine publishers, can no longer afford to support fashion weeks or big-ticket industry events.
Caroline Rush, the BFC’s chief executive officer, noted that the BFC is the first international fashion council to partner with TikTok to support emerging talent “and we look forward to working with the team.”
She added that TikTok has helped the BFC to revive the NewGen program, which was put on ice for 2020-21 due to COVID-19. “The past year was extremely challenging, and much of our support went towards businesses that needed the funds to overcome the pandemic.”
The most recent recipients of the NewGen grants, in 2019-20, included A-Cold-Wall, Ahluwalia, Alighieri, Bethany Williams, Bianca Saunders, Charles Jeffrey Loverboy, Halpern, Matty Bovan, Nicholas Daley, Stefan Cooke and Supriya Lele.
Rich Waterworth, general manager TikTok, said the company was “humbled to be a part of this journey in 2021, at a time when supporting emerging talent is more important than ever before. Creativity is at the heart of TikTok, it is a community where originality and individuality can flourish.”
He added: “In 2020, we saw creators from across the globe spark a knitting revival, through their love of NewGen alumni, JW Anderson’s, now iconic cardigan; through this partnership with the BFC we hope to see even more moments of joy like this and inspire a whole new generation of British fashion talent.”
NewGen is part of the BFC Foundation, which brings all of the group’s charitable initiatives under one umbrella. The foundation focuses on three areas, education, grant-giving and business mentoring and the Institute of Positive Fashion.
In 2020, following the onset of the COVID-19, the BFC decided to pool all of its talent support grants, including NewGen, to make available more than one million pounds of emergency funding via the BFC Foundation Fashion Fund for the COVID Crisis.
Since April 2020, 67 designers have accepted support with more than 1.5 million pounds allocated through the BFC Foundation Fashion Fund for the COVID Crisis.