A sample online listing from a Fashion Business Inc. auction.

LOS ANGELES — Fledgling designers or fashion brands face the challenge of reaching customers beyond the retailers that will take a chance on them.<BR><BR>It’s something Frances Harder, founding director of the nonprofit Fashion Business...

LOS ANGELES — Fledgling designers or fashion brands face the challenge of reaching customers beyond the retailers that will take a chance on them.

It’s something Frances Harder, founding director of the nonprofit Fashion Business Inc., is particularly aware of as she consults and helps guide new entrepreneurs through the process of building business. Now Harder hopes that a partnership between her group and online behemoth eBay that is set to begin on Thursday will give California companies a boost.

“The idea is to have some kind of community for our fashion companies based here,” said Harder, noting the better-known brands initially participating in the launch, a two-week auction benefiting FBI and featuring designer lines David Cardona and Trina Turk, denim super label Von Dutch and actions sports lines Hurley and Split, among others.

The online shop is intended to make the wares of lesser-known brands such as Hanna Hartnell and Sugar Moods, along with other Los Angeles fashion, easily accessible to eBay’s 150 million registered worldwide users. The Internet marketplace has collaborated with New York designers such as Narciso Rodriguez and Diane von Furstenberg, and was intent on striking up a venture with the Los Angeles industry.

“The FBI is such a good place for us to start, while we help them with their mission as an incubator for L.A. designers,” said Allison Stern, category manager for clothing, shoes and accessories for the San Jose, Calif.-based eBay.

To mark the launch, a runway show and party will be held Thursday evening at the Standard Downtown Hotel. Cardona, along with Becca Swimwear, Glaza Clothing, Timoteo, Hanna Hartnell and Sugar Moods will be showcased.

“There’s access to a universal audience you can rarely tap into unless you do something like this,” said Cardona, a former student of Harder’s during her time at downtown’s Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising.

Harder declined to estimate the potential revenue with the online store, rented to FBI at a monthly rate of only $9.99.

“The store could become a big source of revenue for FBI,” Stern said.

— Rose Apodaca Jones

This story first appeared in the October 27, 2004 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

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