Crowdfund us: kickstarting ethical investment
The dreams and designs of ethical brands, whether they are media or fashion projects, cannot be realized on ethics alone. Every one of them needs cold, hard cash. Many ethical lifestyle brands are turning to online crowdfunding to raise much-needed investment by asking the masses to get behind their brands and dig into their pockets. I’m rounding up a handful of interesting crowdfunding campaigns, and exploring the challenges of a competitive crowdfunding market for emergent ethical brands.
Last winter, I heard about a Kickstarter project that was getting a lot of buzz. The 10-Year Hoodie was seeking $50,000 from 1000 people, but ended up raising over $1,000,000 from 9,000 backers. With a strong story, and a very sharable video post, brand Flint and Tinder shot to stardom with major media coverage. Their Made in America promise and focus on super high quality hoodies, built to last a lifetime, resonated with a postmodern generation sick of throw away fashion. They promised durability and free repairs for ten years! They also used a little rebellion in their pitch, by calling out the manufacturing industry for its reliance on ‘planned obsolescence’: to hoodwink consumers with clothing designed to disintegrate. Flint and Tinder incorporated unisex design and inclusive sizing, creating a perfect storm of handmade quality, ethics and simplicity.
“It’s time to buy less, but get more… It’s time to say, not everything should be disposable.” – 10-Year Hoodie Kickstarter Campaign
It’s hard to design a compelling campaign that will mobilize that level of investor response. Sustainable fashion retailer, Modavanti a personal favourite of mine, recently ran an Indiegogo campaign to raise capital of $60,000. They received nearly 10% of their goal, and ran a great social media push to raise awareness of their brand. I believe this is a success in the current crowdfunding environment. Their call for cash went out in an increasingly competitive market, with many ethical and sustainable brands asking a similar group of people to back their projects. The risk of overexposure to these campaigns is investor fatigue and an inability to differentiate what makes one project more worthwhile to invest in than the next.
Even though most crowdfunding campaigns offer perks and rewards to investors, ranging from hand written thank you cards to sample products and exclusive fashion show invitations, perks are not enough. Unlike traditional investments, often made rationally on the basis of profit and returns, many crowdfunded projects are successful because they establish an emotional connection with investors through a strong brand story. People back the projects because they are buying what they believe in. Ethical brands need to tell stories that will resonate with a broader range of people, outside of the relatively small ethical and sustainable niche, where we are bumping into crowdfunding projects every day. If ethical brands can find groups of people outside their industry, who hold comparable values, there’s a chance that more of them will meet their investment goals and build a new audience in the process.
Do you want to find crowdfunded projects and buy what you believe in? Here’s a round-up of some ethical lifestyle campaigns you can browse this weekend:
1. Eluxe Magazine: Full disclosure, I’ve written for Eluxe and love this designer magazine that focuses on eco-luxury in travel, fashion, beauty, tech and design. With one week left for their Kickstarter campaign, there’s still time to pledge support and get access to chic perks including the print edition of the mag.
2. Audacity of Fashion: Introducing a new fashion focused crowdfunding platform. With less than 12 hours left to support upcycling campaign Operation Wardrobe, investors are invited to access bespoke design. There are 3 weeks left to fund ethical designer Ada Zandition, who offers “innovative eco fashion for the modern warrior princess”.
3. Antithesis womenswear: Trending multifunctional womenswear finds incredible expression in the designs of Antithesis. With two amazing collections behind them, the founders are seeking to fund their third slow fashion collection, integrating pieces between their collections.
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