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BFC to Advise on Fashion-Focused VC Investment Fund

The London Fashion Week organiser is partnering with VC fund Venrex in a bid to diversify its revenue stream and expand its reach to a wider variety of fashion businesses.
Adaptive underwear company Intimately raised $1 million from the Venrex BFC Fashion I.
Adaptive underwear company Intimately raised $1 million from the Venrex BFC Fashion I. (Courtesy)

The British Fashion Council (BFC) has partnered with venture capital firm Venrex to provide advisory services for a new investment fund, Venrex BFC Fashion I, focused on the fashion sector.

The initiative is intended to allow the BFC to support a broader range of fashion businesses and boost its funding, said BFC chair Stephanie Phair.

While Venrex will make the investment decisions and the BFC will not take any equity in the companies it funds, the organisation will receive a fee for support with scouting talent, making introductions, and advising the firm on broader macro views on the industry’s outlook. It will also receive a portion of the fund’s earnings.

All revenue raised by the BFC from the new venture will be reinvested back into talent schemes and grants, said Phair. So far, the fund has invested $1 million into Intimately, an adaptive underwear brand; and made two undisclosed investments in Vollebak, a technical outdoor menswear brand, and Digital Village, a metaverse platform with a social marketplace.

“The mission of the BFC is to support and empower, and be a platform for a very vibrant fashion ecosystem in the UK,” said Phair. “That mission has not changed. But what we’ve realised is that, over time, the needs of the different businesses have not necessarily matched up to the funding available.”

Phair declined to comment on the size of the fund but noted it has had “a lot of interest from industry names,” and that she plans to contribute in a personal capacity.

For the BFC, participating in a venture like this is a way to diversify its revenue stream. Currently, the not-for-profit organisation raises the majority of its funds through patronage, commercial sponsorship, events and membership fees, while also receiving a small portion of funding from the UK government.

It’s also a way for the body to provide more value to members of the British fashion community that operate outside the traditional luxury fashion week ecosystem, Phair said. While the BFC has a membership programme that is open to the broader fashion industry in the UK, currently it is most visible in its support of creative, design-led ready-to-wear businesses via talent schemes like NewGen, the BFC/Vogue and BFC/GQ Fashion Funds, and promotion during London Fashion Week.

“There is a whole ecosystem out there of... more commercial fashion businesses that also merit, and we come across them a lot at the BFC,” said Phair. “Fashion does not equal Fashion Week. That is amazing for a subset of our designers and most creative [community members], but there are many, many ways to do fashion, and the fashion industry… has many different ways of building their businesses.”

Venrex already has a broad portfolio of holdings linked to the fashion sector, including brands Me+Em and Aday and fashion tech company Lyst. The firm also invested in Orlebar Brown, the British luxury swim house acquired by Chanel in 2018, and beauty brand Charlotte Tilbury, which sold to Puig in 2020.

“They are very careful about the nuances of this industry, they’ve had success and precedent with that,” Phair said.

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