Bo Guo understands how difficult and sometimes illogical it is to be a fashion designer.
Designers must create a collection, put up the money to produce it, market it and then hope that customers and retailers like it enough to buy it.
Guo, who owns a manufacturing, sourcing and wholesale distribution company that produces collections for retailers including Macy’s, Chico’s and Bloomingdale’s, is attempting to alleviate the inherent flaws layered into fashion design and production with Designow, an incubator platform for designers.
“We are really trying to create a paradigm shift,” said Brian Benner, Designow’s chief marketing officer. “Where designers have typically failed in the past is when they have to control their inventory, source for funding and worry about logistics and manufacturing. It pulls them away from what they really do best, which is design, communicate and market their product. What we are trying to do is shift the market to a point where that’s all the designer needs to do is know who they are marketing to, talk and engage with their market and put products out that their fans, followers and supporters want.”
With Designow, which is currently in beta, designers submit sketches for design competitions, the Designow community votes on the sketches and the winning sketch will be produced by Designow. In the second phase, Designow will produce and shoot a sample of the winning sketch, and if it receives 30 pre-orders within 21 days, the platform will produce and sell the piece and the designer receives 25 percent of the net sales. This whole process costs the designer nothing.
“Everything is transparent,” Benner said. “Their account online shows every sales transaction, what it was sold at and their royalty. And each month they get a check.”
The platform could easily be compared to Kickstarter, but Benner says unlike Kickstarter, Designow offers the help necessary to produce and sell a line.
“With Kickstarter you have to get the capital and figure it out all on your own. We provide a community of support and resources,” Benner said.
According to Benner, the incubator platform, which currently targets women’s at varying price points but will move into men’s down the line, is also a way for retailers to discover new talent and see how an audience is responding to their designs before they decide to bring it into their store. If a designer’s collection does really well on the site, Guo will offer the opportunity for wholesale distribution beyond the platform.
Designow has also brought on a group of influencers including designer Michael Costello, actress Jamie Chung, blogger Danielle Bernstein of WeWoreWhat and footwear designer Ruthie Davis who will each have varying functions. As Style Council members, these influencers will offer suggestions to designers participating in the design competitions. Some will create collections that will be sold on Designow. For example, Costello, who usually sells luxury dresses, will create a line of dresses at a contemporary price point. They’ve also collaborated with Douglas Friedman, the photographer behind The Facinator, on a line of underwear.
“We believe the customer that shops with us wants exclusive collections and unique designs and they are investing in emerging talent,” Guo said.
These collaborations also allow working designers to know what the market is gravitating toward.
“Designow is at the forefront of creativity in the digital space, and the Michael Costello Company has always pride itself for being a trailblazer in upending an industry that lacks diversity and excitement,” said Costello, whose dressed celebrities including Beyoncé and Jennifer Lopez. “We have our fingers on the pulse of what the consumers crave and through our collaboration with Designow, we are more than excited to create a few exclusive pieces and hold true to our mission, which is making high fashion accessible for women of all shapes and sizes.”