Outside of the high street, British fashion isn't exactly known for being commercial.
Quite the contrary, London has made a name for itself as a hotbed of young designers bursting with talent, creativity and innovation -- you're just not going to find a Christopher Kane, Meadham Kirchoff, Simone Rocha or Mary Katrantzou anywhere else. And the next generation of "It Brits," as they're called, is already waiting in the wings.
Of course, while thrilling to see on a runway, many of their designs are niche at best, and impossible to wear and over-the-top expensive at worst. With all the support young designers are given in London, it seems that less thought is put into whether or not something will sell -- at least compared to, say, New York (which many Europeans criticize for being boring and too commercial).
However, it seems that the British Fashion Council, which provides most of this support to young designers, wants to change that story. It announced Wednesday that it has launched a new initiative called BFC Contemporary in partnership with Ebay. Each year, it will choose a few designers who have potential in the contemporary arena to receive mentorship, focusing on brand concepts, production, budgets, scalability, online and offline growth and consumer experience. Each designer will also create a limited edition item to be sold on a designated BFC Contemporary shop on eBay.co.uk. This year's chosen designers are Alexis Barrell, Georgia Hardinge, Paper London, Prism and Zoe Jordan.
The BFC says the program was launched in response to increasing demand for contemporary fashion. While contemporary brands have been big in the U.S. for some time, in Europe, the rise of contemporary labels is a relatively new phenomenon with brands like Maje, Sandro and The Kooples seeing fairly rapid international expansion in recent years. The UK's only big contemporary success story so far is Whistles, but it sounds like there will be more to come.