Former Investment Banker Creates Crowdsourcing Site for Fashion Designers

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A businesswoman from China has created a platform for fledgling fashion designers to seek out financial support, according to The Street.

Ada Yi Zhao, along with Kristina Kuzmina, founded Curated Crowd. Zhao, who used to work in investment banking, wanted to provide a way for designers to launch their lines through crowdfunding online.

Interested supporters, or “patrons” can contribute to designers they want to support through the site. In return, the designers can offer non-monetary returns on their patrons’ investment, such as VIP show entry and fashion items enabled by the crowdfunding.

Zhao said that the site was about recreating the consumer-designer relationship. Instead of fashion purchase being a cut and dried business transaction, the funding relationship recalls the artistic patronage of former times.

Zhao compared it to Peggy Guggenheim’s backing painter Jackson Pollock in the ’30s; however, patronage goes back even further through history. Artists like Leonardo da Vinci received support from monied patrons. Now many people’s contributions can take the place of a few wealthy aristocrats.

The concept for online crowdfunding isn’t a new one. Many social media users recognize sites like GoFundMe, which allows people to request support for an event, cause, project, or organization. Patreon, for another example, was created specifically to help artists (of many kinds) get fan funding. And then there’s crowdsourcing giant Kickstarter, which has categories for various projects and initiatives, including one specifically for fashion.

Zhao, who is London-based, has a masters degree from the London School of Economics. Now that she’s no longer in the investment banking business, she wants to change the usual route fashion designers have to take to find professional success. Getting noticed in the world of fashion design can be a difficult and expensive process. Zhao said that a London Fashion Week show runs a price tag of around £50,000 ($62,055).

Curated Crowd will include online stores for designers to sell their collections. Three criteria govern the process of choosing a designer for Zhao: authenticity, creativity, and connectivity. She wants a brand to be relevant and real, to stand out, and for the designers to demonstrate that they can connect with their patrons.

The first Curated Crowd -funded show will be by label POAN.

I'm a lover of words in all forms, sweatshirts in all conditions, and God in all circumstances. I particularly enjoy working collaboratively on the written word and wearing microfiber robes (preferably at the same time). Most of the time I don't get enough sleep, but I make a valiant effort.

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