Crowdfunding: how the internet helped my lingerie collection become reality!

Karolina 1 Web

‘Ela’ – one of the lingerie sets that my crowdfunding campaign made possible

Crowdfunding is an internet phenomenon that’s exploded in the past few years. Websites such as Kickstarter, Indiegogo and Sponsume offer people the chance to raise funds for their projects with the entire internet at their fingertips.  It’s no surprise that it’s proven so popular – it means that businesses no longer have to rely on banks or investors to get their project off the ground. Instead they rely on their own fans, their friends and their family –people with a genuine vested interest in seeing the project succeed.

My campaign video – shot by Max Allen

The concept behind crowdfunding is that ‘rewards’ or ‘perks’ are offered in exchange for a pledge of funds.  These can vary hugely in content and value, with many starting at £1 and others reaching dizzying heights over £10,000.  Many lingerie brands choose to offer presales on their new collections, as well as exclusive items just for the campaign, from pieces of lingerie to prints of illustrations. Depending on the website used, funders face one of two options: either they take the risk of reaching their target within a set time or receiving no money, or if they don’t reach their target the website takes  a large cut of the funds raised.

More and more lingerie brands have started to use this method of funding to get their own collections off the ground. After seeing their success, this Summer I too decided to take the plunge and use Indiegogo to fund my new lingerie collection!

elzbieta set

Designs from my first collection – their construction and materials mean they could be produced on a domestic sewing machine

When I started my lingerie brand, it was on a tiny scale that involved me buying materials in tiny quantities and manufacturing each garment by myself.   I knew this would in no way be practical when I entered my final year of university –I came to the decision that it would be a risky but in the long term sensible business move to make the step into factory production.  Of course, there were rather large obstacles in my way. As a student, I don’t qualify for most business start-up schemes, whilst no bank would so much as consider giving me a loan. Crowdfunding was literally my only option to make my lingerie dreams a reality.

294961_548612621843606_1681177567_nAs part of my new collection I sourced beautiful vintage kimono silks to upcycle

My previous collection was based entirely around elastic strapping frame pieces. I wanted to push myself as a designer and bring more lingerie-focused pieces into the collection –soft lace bras and knickers, open cup wired bras. I wanted to showcase my love of beautiful materials –I’d sourced some absolutely stunning French couture Chantilly and beaded laces, and my personal favourite: a hand-picked selection of vintage Japanese kimono silks.  As well as a collection of lingerie sets that featured contemporary fabrics, I wanted to create a series of knickers that upcycled the kimono silks into pieces of wearable art.

1000068_556324567739078_473169511_n2

Swing tags and labels: surprisingly more expensive than you’d anticipate.

The fact is, there’s simply no way I’d be able to produce such a collection by myself.  No matter how much I scrimped and scraped my money, I wouldn’t be able to buy the materials, nor could I sew my designs to a professional standard on domestic machines.  There are also so many costs that you wouldn’t normally consider; items such as custom woven labels and printed tags have to be purchased in bulk to be at all cost-effective. The same applies to fabrics and trims –nylon liners and elastic trims, stretch meshes and cotton gusseting.  Everything adds up beyond what was initially imagined.

536741_591171254254409_1628062668_n

Exclusive rewards for my campaign: eyelash lace and silk lingerie sets and knickers – these were actually very fun to create!

Preparing and running the campaign was more hard work than I could have imagined – it’s not a case of simply uploading the required information and waiting for the timer to run its course. You have to create a personal video and plan out exactly where the money needs to go. You need to create exciting and desirable rewards for your funders. You have to promote your campaign – and in my opinion this was the most difficult part of the entire project. There’s a fine line between asking for help and annoying people – I fear I may have overstepped it a few times!

1175135_594340970604104_1032409632_nKnickers from my first factory delivery – opening the box was such an exciting experience!

My campaign was a success and I reached full funding within the deadline. It is truly an overwhelming experience when you achieve a goal like that – a combination of friends, family and total strangers believe in you enough and enjoy your work enough to help bring your project to life. I can also safely say that ripping open a box containing your first factory delivery is fantastically satisfying!

Whilst it was an overall positive experience, there are certain risks attached (not to mention the barrage of criticism I managed to attract!). You can’t go into a crowdfunding campaign thinking you’ll keep every penny for your project; a large portion of any money raised goes to pay the website’s fees and payment processing fees.  I personally used quite a large portion of the money to pay for the fulfilment of my pledge rewards. It’s also very easy to get overly distracted with fulfilling the rewards –after all, you want to make your funders happy but there’s no point focusing on them alone and neglecting the original project!

1333_573474536024081_1525591265_nHow some of the criticisms made me feel… And yes I have a lot of hair!

Criticisms can also be harsh and demoralising. I struggled not to take to heart when I saw total strangers discussing my campaign on the internet and calling my new collection a whim and saying I should wait until I graduate before pursuing any sort of serious lingerie business. It’s important to remember that these are the sorts of things you’ll face whatever you do – it’s important not to trip at the first hurdle!

Karolina 7 Web

From the lookbook of my crowdfunded collection – ‘Ume’ knickers

The hard work all paid off though – the funds raised by the campaign (as well as a sizable chunk of my own savings!) paid for everything I needed to create my new collection – the beautiful fabrics, labels and tags, the flights to visit the factory, the production costs, the photoshoot.   The new collection is beautiful and isn’t something I could have achieved on a similar scale by myself –I’m hoping it will pave the way for more beautiful lingerie in the future and for a successful brand that I can make a living from!

I haven’t been the only one to crowdfund my lingerie brand – here’s a few of the brands who successfully made their projects a reality or who are currently trying to!

Angela Friedman

d411964bd48552931ed3470abdfdf818_large[1]

Angela Friedman used Kickstarter to fund her SS12 ‘Versailles’ collection-  comprising of sumptuous corsetry and lingerie sets, using deliciously opulent silks, brocades and French laces. Her campaign paid for the fabric and production costs, photoshoot, promotional materials and a presentation of the new collection.

Relique

2824f28916c4d4d15136bec225ef6d10_large[1]

Lingerie brand Relique started out selling on Etsy  – their success prompted them to use Kickstarter to fund a new collection to present at the Lingerie Journal’s ‘Designer Showcase’ at the Lingerie Collective in February 2013.  As well as materials and production costs, the funds raised via crowdfunding helped cover their showcase entrance fee.

Sparklewren

00279bha

Luxury bespoke corsetiere Sparklewren used Sponsume to raise the funds for a pop-up corsetry boutique in Birmingham in the UK. Funds raised covered materials costs and furnished and decorated the shop. The project was so successful that the pop-up extended beyond its initial planned 6 months into well over a year!

Blackbird Underpinnings

000893d25100e2d94a0cdb70ef7c9e61_large[1]

Lingerie brand ‘Blackbird Underpinnings’ are seeking $37,000 to fund their ‘Maven’ collection. The brand takes its inspiration from the 1920s and 30s and the inspiring women from this era – Edith Piaf, Josephine Baker, Marlene Dietrich and Gabrielle Chanel. Their designs focus on soft pieces with luxurious fabrics, such as silk charmeuse bloomers and rompers.

Ampere

6e4440f70e592b0788b5ccb459fcfce0_large[1]

Ampere are seeking $15000 to launch their second collection, with a focus on every day luxury. It comprises of silk t-shirt bras and matching co-ordinates.  The brand focuses on creating lingerie in a wide range of sizes and on improving the overall lingerie shopping experience.  Their campaign hasn’t finished yet but they have already gone over their funding goal!

Readers: How do you feel about lingerie brands crowdfunding their collections? Have you ever contributed to one of these campaigns?

Karolina

Karolina

Contour Fashion graduate. Spends most of her time sewing bras and getting excited by shiny things.

More Posts - Website

Follow Me:
TwitterFacebook

8 Comments

  1. 05/11/13 at 11:40

    I personally think crowd funding is a fantastic opportunity for people from many different industries to start up their own business or reclaim their ‘art’ as is the case with musicians. Crowd funding as proved to be hugely successful within the music industry and the lingerie industry should be no different.

  2. 05/11/13 at 12:32

    Very inspiring story and also kudos to you for having the courage to take on such an adventure while still in Uni. Best of luck and so excited to see what new pieces you create in the future.

  3. Becca C
    05/11/13 at 14:31

    I’m a huge(well plus sized) fan of this idea and would put money into a lingerie start-up in a heartbeat if I was in the designer’s size range…In fact Id love it if TLA had a link to kickstarter et al for lingerie.

  4. 06/11/13 at 6:29

    It’s amazing to hear about the funding after you achieved your goal – specially because I was one of the funders and I really love knowing I helped this beautiful collection! And you shouldn’t really care about the ones that said you should graduate first. You will have plenty of time to do new things after you’ve graduated, but the sooner you start experimentation, the better! I know you are probably over this kind of comment, already, but I just felt I had to give you support, because I think what you do is amazing :)

  5. Liz
    06/11/13 at 13:23

    people who think you should graduate first don’t realise that uni is the only thing preventing you from world domination! and it’s interesting to know the potential risks involved in crowdfunding; I feel like you only hear about the positive, ‘huge audience’ side of things.

  6. 07/11/13 at 18:02

    Wow – this was very timely, and a great help! I just created my first kickstarter campaign for my lingerie company which is using profits to provide underwear to young girls in Africa. It isn’t live yet – and I was afraid to pull the trigger! Thanks for putting your experience on here, including the bad with the good. Glad to see it went well (overall) for you!

  7. 08/11/13 at 3:21

    Thank you so much for including Blackbird Underpinnings in this article! I may be a bit biased ;) but I think that crowdfunding is such a win-win situation because it allows emerging brands to get a jumpstart, while giving consumers opportunities to get their hands on some really amazing and unique items! It’s an intense process to be sure, but a really rewarding one. Please check out our campaign if you want to support SF-made lingerie, and good luck to all of you out there who are currently running a crowdfunding campaign or planning to start one! :)

  8. 08/11/13 at 18:10

    I think crowd funding is a great idea. I first heard of this from a friend who sent me a government of Alberta (Canada) link for a crowd funding initiative specifically geared towards women in independent business. Unfortunately, that site went only by small areas, and my town was not included in the current or upcoming area. Then I discovered gofundme.com and put a profile there, but you are right. Getting the word out is the hardest part. Trying to gain funds for my small, independent lingerie boutique; to expand my stock with much needed styles, to renovate and update the store, and get more functional fixtures; has been dishearteningly unsuccessful so far. But, that won’t stop me! Your pieces are beautifully crafted, and I am so happy that crowd funding has gotten your collection off the ground. Best of luck for the future!

Leave a Comment

Thanks for leaving a comment! I love hearing from TLA readers.