What is Before the Label?
Before the Label is a fashion crowdfunding platform that was founded by five professionals in New York City: Benish Shah (me), Sheheryar Sardar, Uzma Kaleem, Nyla Hasan and Aziz Hasan. We all come from different backgrounds, but Nyla, Aziz and I had previously worked on a fashion label together. We understood the process designers go through to raise funds, assess market trends and make sales.
We also saw how difficult it was for customers to find and support strong newcomers. Before the Label was born to help designers save money by only producing what the market has shown an interest in, while supporting no-waste production (only what has been sold is produced). It’s a way for brands to grow their business, understand the market and gain consumer insight.
The fashion industry has a high barrier to entry. Designing and producing one collection can cost designers upwards of $50,000 (£33,125), which forces them to charge unsustainably high prices for their items. We also know designers who have dozens of fabric rolls and boxes of unsold inventory from previous seasons. So we stepped in to help alleviate the need for a full collection or a full size run. We encourage designers to market-test their items before going into production; sometimes your friends will tell you that a design is amazing, but the market won’t follow.Why start the crowdfunding platform?
Traditional crowdfunding platforms have low success rates for designers and fashion campaigns because they pit fashion against technological innovation. We wanted to give designers a place exclusively for fashion, with insights from our team on pricing and production goals.
The initial concept of crowdfunding is the same across all platforms: take part in making someone’s idea come to life. We handle it differently because we say: why should you only get a thank you message or a Twitter shout out? If you crowdfund an item on Before the Label, you get the actual item, in exchange for helping support a designer’s passion.
We also handle shipping of the product, to ensure that customers get the item they supported. Our campaigners get part of their payment in advance to start production, but only receive the remaining funds once we’ve received the products. This also helps take logistical burdens off the brand, freeing them up to focus on their lines.
Will Before the Label work with the traditional fashion industry or counter to it?
We think the traditional fashion industry can use Before the Label as a market analysis tool to better understand what designs will work, without having to take the financial risk of producing first and then losing money on an item that doesn’t work. It’s also a good price assessment tool. From the consumer end, it puts power back in the hands of the consumer because they decide what should be in fashion. It’s empowering to decide what will and won’t get made.
Do you see the relationship between fashion and tech growing?
Absolutely. More and more consumers are going online to find things others don’t have, as well as using it to avoid luxury price points. We love the work of retail startup Everlane, who focus on transparency and eliminating the middleman.
What’s next for the company?
We’re focusing on organic growth – making sure the campaigns get attention rather than being lost in a sea of other campaigns. We’re also working on brand relationships. We just completed a program with Tide Pods on washable fashion that was very well received.
What advice do you have for any young fashion startups out there?
It takes a lot of time if you want sustainable growth – especially when your idea is new to the market. You have to stick it out until the market catches up with you, which is the hardest part.