LONDON — The British Fashion Council is looking to its counterparts’ play books in cities such as New York, Paris and Milan, and pushing ahead with a paid-for membership program in a bid to raise further funds for designers, business programs, education and scholarships.
As the BFC seeks fresh revenue streams in a challenging business, and political, environment, it is now asking designers, brands, ready-to-wear and accessories businesses to pay an annual membership subscription. It is also looking to broaden its reach beyond the designers and brands that show during London Fashion Week, and to create a more cohesive community formed from a variety of businesses.
An announcement detailing the new program is expected today.
Until now the BFC, a not-for-profit organization, has relied exclusively on fundraising through events such as The Fashion Awards, government grants, donations and patronage to keep its engines running. In July, as part of its first published annual report, the company alluded to the new membership scheme, which soft-launched in September.
Over the summer, BFC chair Stephanie Phair said the program would allow the organization to “open up our services to a much wider community, and not just the brands that are part of the schedule at London Fashion Week.”
The BFC had long been pondering the changing business environment, and had also been looking for ways of working with direct-to-consumer businesses and designers and brands that don’t necessarily stage runway shows or presentations.
Membership fees are based on annual turnover, and range from designer members to patron members. Businesses with up to 1 million pounds in turnover pay 500 pounds a year with the rates increasing incrementally. Brands with turnover in excess of 100 million pounds, such as Burberry, are asked to become patrons.
The BFC said that 80 members have signed up so far, including the London Fashion Week designers, and engagement with the membership site so far has been positive. The BFC is now looking to get London Fashion Week Men’s designers on board.
BFC members will be able to access an online portal of relevant industry news, government updates and insight reports, and will have the opportunity to attend business development seminars, workshops and events from across the fashion industry. They will also receive a weekly newsletter.
Members will also be able to contribute to the industry through mentoring talent schemes for emerging businesses, and share their knowledge and expertise at designer roundtables and commission insight reports.
They can also participate in voting for annual Fashion Awards, which has become the major fundraiser for the BFC Foundation. The 2019 awards event will take place on Monday, Dec. 2, at Royal Albert Hall. That event will continue to take place each year, and the BFC will also receive funding from government grants, donations and patronage.
Caroline Rush, chief executive officer of the BFC, said the move to a membership organization is “part of our mission to encourage collaboration and inclusivity, inviting designers to come together in support of the fashion industry’s ecosystem. We invite and welcome new members to join, whose involvement and efforts will enable the future sustainable growth of our industry.”
In an interview, Rush said the BFC had been thinking about paid membership for a while, both as means of generating revenue and a way to create a wider community of fashion and accessories companies.
She said it was important for the BFC to connect businesses at all different levels — not just emerging talents who stage runways shows — and to give them access to support, mentoring, insight and international contacts. Members will also have access, she added, to preferential rates for professional legal, accounting, consultancy and technology services.
“We’re open to working with more and diverse businesses, and we believe that if we come together we can be more powerful,” she said.
The program is supported by the Designer Relations team at the BFC and is open to applications from fashion designers as well as from direct-to-consumer businesses that meet certain criteria.
Designers or businesses need to have been selling goods for at least two years; be a registered business with Companies House, the official site of U.K. businesses; to produce ready-to-wear and/or accessories collections; have a product vision set out by a creative director; and contribute both creatively and economically to the British fashion industry.