2014 Newsmakers: Frances Harder and Fashion Business Inc.
Since 1999, Fashion Business Inc. has been helping small apparel companies grow their businesses through its series of courses, workshops and webinars.
This year, FBI founder Frances Harder published the 10th edition of her book “Fashion for Profit,” which details what apparel manufacturers need to take their idea from design concept to retail.
Harder also continued her work with the United Nations, helping international apparel organizations assist local producers in bringing their products to market. This year, she has been helping a group of cashmere producers in Nepal prepare to sell to the U.S. market, including working closely with the MAGIC trade show to select 10 to exhibit at the February edition of the Sourcing at MAGIC show in Las Vegas. She has done the same for a group of Peruvian manufacturers, who continue to travel annually to Los Angeles to meet with Harder and her team for guidance about entering the domestic market. The Nepal group and the Peruvians have since become FBI members, and a handful from both organizations will show in MAGIC’s Emerging Designers section in Las Vegas, Harder said.
The nonprofit organization continued its partnerships with MAGIC; DG Expo, the small-mimimums fabric show; and the Los Angeles International Textile Show. FBI hosts several business-to-business seminars during the February and August editions of MAGIC, as well as at the New York, San Francisco and Miami editions of DG Expo. For the biannual LA Textile show, FBI holds an open house and a series of free seminars and workshops. This year, the organization was also invited to host seminars at the Licensing Expo and ASD trade shows in Las Vegas.
“You find a different dynamic in each city,” Harder said. The strength of the San Francisco community has prompted FBI to start hosting monthly meetings in the Bay Area with FBI board member Teri Watts, chief technology officer of the e-commerce platform Shoppista. Watts also created an FBI marketplace on Shoppista.
This year, FBI hosted a technical training program for displaced workers in the apparel industry and is planning to host more next year, said FBI Executive Director Trish Concannon.
FBI also conducted tours of the Los Angeles Fashion District, local showrooms and area factories, Concannon said, adding that the group is working on a monthly newsletter to highlight FBI members.
For companies looking for investment opportunities, FBI launched the Lion’s Den, a “Shark Tank”–style event that selects a group of start-ups to pitch their business concept to a group of investors. Participants have to prepare an investment deck, and, if they’re ready for investment, FBI chooses six to present to the group, Harder said, adding that since the launch of the program other investors have shown interest in participating in the future. One is a manufacturer looking to set up an incubator program in his factory. Another is a London-based brand looking to invest in U.S. companies.
And in October, FBI hosted its fourth annual All Aboard….LA’s Fashion Platform runway show and fundraiser, which showcases the work of several California brands, as well as the winner of the Moss Adams Fashion Innovator (MAFI) award. Held at the historic Union Station in downtown Los Angeles, the sold-out event was so well received, FBI is considering expanding the event to two nights and adding an international component, as well, Harder said.