Published in Buzzcuts, as part of the Virgin Australia Melbourne Fashion Festival Cultural Program 2015.
Stagelabel is fast becoming the next big thing in fashion. A crowdfunding initiative created just over a year ago, Stagelabel gives emerging fashion designers an online platform to market their unique collections to specific niche audiences, providing them with the best marketing and publicity opportunities available.
The company’s concept is reminiscent of other crowd funding platforms such as Kickstarter and GoFundMe, with a fashionable twist added to it – designers showcase their pieces and invite potential consumers to pledge and support. The outcome is simple – if the pledge is successful, the design is sent to you. If not, no charge occurs and the customer feedback is sent back to the designer for future reference.
We talked to Stagelabel CEO Rohit Bhargava who gave us a lowdown of what to expect in the events, as well as providing intriguing insight into how the company came to be.
Tell us a bit about Stagelabel – how did it come to fruition?
RB: I was working on another business at the time, and I was reading this start up book called “The Lean Startup” by Eric Ries, which essentially talks about validating things that people wanted rather than making assumptions and investing a lot of time in a project that may or may not work.So looking back at some of the previous businesses I’ve done before, the whole process [of Stagelabel] made a lot of sense. Especially in something like fashion, there are a lot of really talented people in the industry. But it’s also one of the most competitive industries out there – it’s very easy to get into and it’s very glamorous but unfortunately a lot of really talented designers struggle to make it even though the industry overall is growing every year. And my team and I really wanted to know why designers struggled, so we invested a lot of time in talking to designers and finding out some of the barriers holding them back. They all came back to us with the same responses so we created Stagelabel which removes a lot of these risks and barriers holding them back.
How long has Stagelabel been around for?
RB: It’s been just over 12 months since we launched the website, about 18 months since we started working on it. We’re working with 85 designers across Australia at the moment, and there are about 12-15 international ones set to launch. It was a bit of a learning process at the start. When we first launched it was only in Sydney, which is where we were originally based, then I moved to Melbourne to join the rest of the team. Then we started expanding across Australia and now we’re starting to get into the international scene a little bit more.
Stagelabel is holding two events for VAMFF Cultural Program – the Emerging Fashion Industry Talk and the Stagelabel Interactive Runway. Tell us about the inspiration behind those events.
RB: [Stagelabel] is all about doing things a little bit differently, and being a start up, anything we devote time for needs to make a lot of sense of us and have creative return either in a business sense or from our user base. Because of the way we operate, we work with two markets: the designer side and the customer side.
The Emerging Fashion Industry Talk is primarily there for people in the industry we work with – not necessarily just fashion designers (even though that is our focus) but also helping stylists, photographers, bloggers learn from people that have been there and can share their expertise on how they got started and why they are so successful now. Unfortunately, there isn’t a lot of sharing in the industry. People tend to be very secretive. We felt it would be a really good opportunity for everyone in the industry to just learn from each other. For example, David Briskin (CEO of Sass & Bide) will be at the talk, discussing how he started with the company and where it is today. That was the aim behind the whole talk – giving more informative discussion about the fashion industry.
The Stagelabel Interactive Runway is for our designers. It’s very hard for them put on a runway logistically and financially all by themselves at a big festival like VAMFF. With us and the way we operate we are able to collectively bring a lot of designers together and pull some of our resources together to put together a show. We’ve got 8 designers showcasing on the night, so you’ll see a mix of talented designers from across the country and overseas as well.
Describe both events in one word.
RB: Emerging Fashion Industry Talk – Knowledge.
RB: Stagelabel Interactive Runway – Energetic.
How does your runway differ from traditional runways we’ve seen in the media?
RB: We’ve changed the concept of the Interactive Runway this time around – but essentially what we’ve seen on traditional runway shows is that there isn’t much interaction between the designers and the people in the audience. The event is just about designers showcasing their pieces and launching their collections, it’s more about connecting them with potential buyers and receiving feedback. We’re setting up specific stalls – before and after the event – for the designers to meet those in attendance. The audience are able to buy things straightaway – they get early access to all of the garments along with a special discount code and URL on the night to purchase any garments.
So what can we expect from the collections featured in the runway?
RB: We’ve got designers who are launching their autumn/winter collection. We also have designers who are bringing an international flavor to the show, so there are collections that are filled with vibrant colours from Australia and across Asia. We’ve got some fantastic swimwear from a label that has just launched in Sydney. It’s going to be a real mix of styles, from ready to wear, swimwear and evening wear.
What’s the first and most important advice you would give to emerging fashion designers?
RB: The biggest thing is being organised and being able to promote themselves. You might have the best product but if you aren’t able to market yourselves or put it in front of consumers it’s really difficult for anyone to sell your product. So making sure you have a plan or strategy and know who your target audience is and developing specific promotions is crucial.