The UK department store chain’s “Rewiring Space” opened at its Oxford Street location on December 3, as strict lockdown measures were lifted in London. The concept is the result of open conversations between brands, operators and retailers looking for ways to reshape the fashion system as a result of the pandemic.
Twenty Europe-based designers, including Christopher Kane, Erdem, Coperni, A-Cold-Wall, GMBH and Neil Barrett, will sell current and past-season items — including original runway samples and one-off prototypes — for up to 70 percent off the original retail price.
Selfridges has not bought the product outright, but is instead providing its floor space, retail fixtures and sales personnel free of charge, and will take a 15 percent commission on sales to pay for operating fees, including credit card transactions. There is no other cost to those taking part.
Independent designers — many of whom rely heavily on wholesale partnerships to achieve global distribution and exposure — have been hard hit by the pandemic. As spring lockdowns forced stores to close, many suffered from cancelled orders and late payments, leaving them with excess inventory. Some lacked the cash to pay employees or make new collections.
The Rewiring Space concept is the first tangible result of “Rewiring Fashion,” a series of virtual meetings between designers, brand operators, retailers and advisors, started at the beginning of the pandemic and facilitated by BoF.
Along with helping young brands survive in the short-term, Selfridges’ executive buying and merchandising director Sebastian Manes said the initiative would help the department store deepen relationships with rising talents.
“We always try to support young talent… even today when it’s obviously very hard,” he said. “I can’t imagine a world where it’s only dominated by a few luxury brands.”
Manes, along with Tomorrow London chief executive Stefano Martinetto and other members of Rewiring Fashion, selected the participating designers. (Tomorrow London is also supporting the project by bringing in additional salespeople.) The group, which merged with Dries Van Noten’s The Forum — another collective looking to shift the designer business model — last week at BoF’s VOICES, hopes retailers in North America and Asia will volunteer to build out similar spaces for local designers.
“They needed this chance and opportunity,” Martinetto said. “It marks a fundamental shift in the relationship between retailers and independent designers.”