In the cacophony of the internet, it can be near-impossible for a new fashion brand to get noticed online. One increasingly popular way of being seen is via the crowdfunding site Kickstarter, where hopefuls can raise money — and their profiles.
Since it was founded in 2009, Kickstarter has offered anyone the chance to make their creative projects a reality. The concept is simple: the project creator sets a funding goal and deadline. If people like the idea, they pledge, sometimes in exchange for a tangible reward, often for little more than the satisfaction of seeing it come to fruition. To date, it has started 78,000 projects — and quickly, too: many hit their target within days. More than $1.5bn in pledges have been made since its launch: not bad when you consider that Kickstarter’s all-or-nothing approach means that only fully subscribed projects are funded — if it falls short, no one is charged. Anyone can pitch a project and anyone can fund: the minimum pledge is £1 (the maximum donation in the UK is £5,000).
Last year, Instrmnt, a Glasgow-based watchmaker offering minimalist, industrial-inspired Swiss movement timepieces that retail for £160, drew contributions of £93,000 — nearly quintupling its £20,000 target. “Initially, there was a feeling we might lose some prestige in comparison to other brands that hadn’t been crowdfunded, but my view has totally changed,” says Pete Sunderland, co-creative director. “We almost have more legitimacy because people invested in us so early.”
The appeal is clear, insists Sunderland. “People will always look for new ideas, and Kickstarter shows them at their earliest stage. They see a product go from concept to development and on to becoming a tangible object. Plus, they receive it before the rest of the market.”
Crowdfunding’s greatest advantage is that by pre-selling it enables a new brand to secure costs ahead of production. Brooklyn lingerie designer Rachel Rector studied art history at the University of Florida before launching her business on Kickstarter last year; her playful designs are now being stocked in boutiques across the US.
“There are so many upfront costs that designers face before even making a dime,” she says. “Patterns, fit models, samples, fabric, marketing . . . these are all required before production can even be considered.” Rector has plans to expand into loungewear, swimwear and men’s underwear — and the influx of funds from the Kickstarter campaign will enable her to develop her line more quickly than expected.
Simon Middleton has launched two Kickstarter campaigns. His latest, Shackleton, a British-made line of utilitarian outerwear inspired by the Antarctic explorer, hit its funding target at the beginning of this month, raising £35,000 of the initial £30,000 target. Middleton uses Kickstarter as a platform from which to gain additional investment. “We are about to take on board another £400,000 equity investment, as well as Kickstarter,” he says, “which will give us sufficient funding to make the brand a substantial lifestyle brand over the next few years.”
Successful Kickstarter campaigns can have a springboard effect: Instrmnt is about to secure premises in Glasgow for a first standalone store, and have since forged links with stockists worldwide. “It promotes your work to others who might not see it unless you spend on advertising,” Sunderland says. Rector is buying machines and hiring staff to help with in-house production to give her full control over manufacturing, and Shackleton will look to hire designers as well as attract additional “angel” investors to develop the brand.
But what is the real appeal of Kickstarter, for backers and investors? “It’s powerful because it’s about stories”, says Middleton. “Stories excite people.”
This article has been amended to reflect the fact that more than $1.5bn in pledges have been made since Kickstarter’s launch, not $2bn as originally stated.