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Harvard graduates hope to change the fashion industry with a new website, FashionStake.com. It enables consumers to give designers feedback on their collections and help fund production for exclusive designs.
On the website, customers can directly fund fashion designers by browsing on-line collections and buying a stake in a collection in return for credits to buy clothes. Patrons can also share ideas with designers and vote on collections.
The model, inspired by Internet-based social media networks like Twitter and Facebook, taps into a growing business model called crowd sourcing where entrepreneurs go directly to customers for content, funding, and distribution.
Daniel Gulati, CEO of Fashionstake.com, said, "We really saw that the channel could be fundamentally overhauled. So what FashionStake does is we get an idea of demand before the collection is produced so when the collection does go into production we're not left with a pile of inventory at the end of the day. What that means is that we can offer great value to customers and we can offer exclusive perks and privileges as well."
Advocates of crowd sourcing say it offers consumers a cheaper, more flexible alternative and frees artists from having to get past big corporations.
New York-based handbag designer Lauren Merkin said that particularly in this economy getting feedback from customers before production begins is invaluable.
Lauren Merkin, Handbag Designer, said, "We are not in the business of making things that are purely for creativity. We are making a product and it's supposed to work for customers wardrobes, so this is a great way to take these ideas and see what their interest is, what they like and what they respond to. And getting that feedback early is incredible because the truth is the end result for us is to sell and provide the customer with a product they love to use."
The founders of FashionStake are betting on the public's passion for fashion to make their venture a success. President and co-founder Vivian Weng notes that people get more exposure to the fashion business than ever before and their interest in what's happening behind the scenes is increasing.
Vivian Weng, President of Fashionstake.com, said, "You know bloggers are posting pictures, people are seeing the collections before they are even made. You have shows like 'Project Runway' that are bringing fashion right into people's houses. So overall we felt that there was a desire on behalf of the consumer to just learn more and go to fashion shows and to somehow connect with the designer."
New York Fashion Week kicks off next Thursday and Weng and Gulati plan for FashionStake to make a big debut.