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A former financial services professional who is following her dream-career in the fashion business, has won LBS Launchpad with an online pop-up concept.
Open to the public, LBS Launchpad is a start-up pre-accelerator program that helps entrepreneurs transform ideas into viable businesses. Successful applicants take part in a series of networking events, practical workshops and pitches that help them develop, test and launch their idea. The winner takes home a cheque for £3,000 but all entries are positioned to receive investment.
Nina Brener-Hellmund (MBA 2019) and Lara Pereda, formerly of Net-a-Porter and Threads Styling won this years’ Launchpad with FASHEM. FASHEM is positioning itself in a niche between fast-fashion houses like ASOS and high-end luxury platforms like Net-a-Porter and Farfetch, through a new shopping experience that taps into the demand for new and rare pieces.
FASHEM is looking to shake up the fashion e-commerce industry, with a business model that is the first to bring the pop-up concept online through social media. As a two-sided platform, FASHEM connects millennial shoppers with emerging designers through an experiential and effortless social commerce platform. For a limited period of time, customers can shop unique and hard-to-find affordable luxury products from all over the world.
“We recognised there is this opportunity for affordable luxury: with luxury prices continuously increasing, customers find that affordability is becoming more challenging, and that the quality isn’t there in fast fashion,” she said.
“And more to the point, we felt that in our millennial generation, people want to be more unique and find unique pieces. We thought the existing platforms were very repetitive, everyone has the same designers, it's the same experience. Established designers are very well placed but there's a huge market for emerging fashion designers.
“It's very expensive for emerging designers to get access to markets outside of their own countries. A lot of them don't have e-commerce, they don't have online stores. And if they do get on these established platforms, they have to build up massive inventory, which is a big risk for them that they don't really have the money for. So our solution is to bring the pop-up concept online. These digital pop-ups start with social media, through Instagram.”
FASHEM has already received orders just based on a teaser campaign of the upcoming Latin American designers that have been on-boarded, and the early promise seems to have been recognised by the Launchpad judges.
“FASHEM gives you a different experience,” explained Brener-Hellmund. “During the week-long pop-up you get to know the designer and you place your orders during that week. The target audience right now is someone between 20 and 40. They like social media, and they like to discover new products and brands.
“We have 35 designers that we work with. And it's still early days. I think what the judges really liked, is that we have much higher engagement from our audience compared to the other platforms. Maybe we're lucky or maybe we're actually targeting the people that like what we're doing.”
LBS career change
Nina Brener-Hellmund says she always loved fashion but never believed she would turn it into a career to match her time at Goldman Sachs or UBS.
“When I was graduating from Stanford University, the good jobs were in consulting and finance,” she said. “But it was not really what I enjoyed doing. And then after four years of working and finance, I realised I wanted to change, and applied for my MBA, but I didn't think I would ever end up working in fashion.
“Without Launchpad, we wouldn't have ended up with this idea. We started Launchpad with a very different idea. If you look at our midterm pitch, it's a different business. All of the workshops and the mentors, and even just the students we've talked to, we've picked up ideas from all of those conversations, and really landed on something we think is very new, and different. Now we think it's something that has legs.”