Capsule

Front Row Society: A Fashion Democracy

September 17, 2012 BY CAPSULESNEWS

Couldn't get a seat in the front row during NYFW? Well, maybe Front Row Society can give you a taste of that sweet fame where you always have front row privileges and are as important. A fashion label that emerged from Berlin just a year ago, FRS creates high-quality products based on the concept of a fashion democracy—where both consumers and designers are able to play on the same platform. The company focuses on being an outlet that welcomes all talents and creativity to join their unique community. We caught up with Florian Ellsaesser, founder of Front Row Society, to further chat about his fashion democracy.

Tell us about how Front Row Society works.

We run monthly themed competition for print designs, which are open to anyone in the world, regardless of previous experience. The whole FRS community then votes to determine which designs will be produced as accessories. We believe that truly original ideas can come from anywhere, regardless of formal training, and as a result of working with a community of talented artists, our label remains fresh and unique.

How did FRS come to be? What is the creative vision you aim for?

Front Row Society was born out of a desire for a true "fashion democracy." Anyone can submit ideas and anyone can have their say in determining which ideas we produce. We also aim to be a 100% ethically sourced fashion label—which is why, as well as maintaining high labor standards in our production, we donate a proportion of our revenues to a good cause.

What are some of the aesthetics you guys consider when choosing designers?

First and foremost, we look at the votes from our community, and use these scores as a guide to selecting our design challenge winners—designs that get a lot of votes are naturally given higher consideration. However, votes are not the only factor. For example, we saw some cute animal print designs in one competition that we all liked, but they just didn't fit with the FRS aesthetic, as our prints tend to be quite abstract.

We also tend to favor bold, vibrant prints, however, we encourage our designers to study the brief and color palette provided with every competition, as fashion is an ever-changing process. Finally, the print has to embody the boldness and originality that is so much a part of the FRS fashion label, and of course, make for a wearable product! We regularly get designs that feature a lot of white space, which look stunning on screen, but when realized, would simply look like a plain white scarf, which is not the most exciting of choices.

Since FRS supports sustainable fashion, how do you reflect your concerns about the environment with you challenges and projects?

Each of our designs has a unique story and this story can be developed to communicate concerns about the environment. For the last London Fashion Week, we ran "The World Around Us" design challenge. The aim of the challenge was to illustrate how climate change is effecting the environment with an inspiring fashion accessory. The designs were presented in a fashion show at London Fashion Week and all proceeds went to a good cause.

Describe the production process.

We have detailed trend forecasting for every season to develop an overall theme and a color scheme for our collection. The theme is converted into mood boards for the design challenges. The design challenges are run on a monthly basis, so we bring out new designs every month. The designs are curated into four annual collections.

We always have in season sales and keep our lead-time to a maximum of two months. We want to ensure that retailers can test the collection, find out what the top sellers are, and reorder, all within one season.

What do you think has been the most challenging or interesting aspect of running an e-commerce business?

I think the distinction has to be made between what we do and e-commerce. Although, of course, the design challenges all take place on our website, and we do sell our products online, we are not really an e-commerce business—we actually sell most of our products through boutiques across the globe.

Occasionally, a major player will begin stocking our products, which is probably the most exciting thing to happen to any fashion label. Last month saw both Anthropologie UK and Nordstrom stocking Front Row Society scarves, which is not only affirming for us as a brand, but is also a fantastic endorsement of the designers who help us thrive. This is probably the most exciting aspect of running a fashion label. The challenge is getting there!

Do you guys ever get weird submissions? What was the weirdest?

We get weird submissions all the time. We love weird! If it's weird, then it's different, and if it's different, then you are standing out from the crowd, which is what fashion has always been about. For instance, one of the more recent additions to the FRS collection was the "Purple Pleasures" scarf, designed by Elisabetta Vigano. The print is actually based on an exploration of "female pleasure" and aims to remove the taboo from this topic. It's a wildly original idea (particularly in relation to scarf design!) and makes for a completely weird and wonderful finished product.

What else do you enjoy besides fashion?

I love any type of music, classical, hip-hop, or electronic. I also love being outside. I enjoy discovering new places, particularly "in-between" areas, like abandoned industrial buildings that one can usually find just outside of the city center. They give a real glimpse into history and leave a lot of space to be filled by our fantasies.

Favorite spots in Berlin?

Kreuzberg, close to Schlesisches Tor. The bars are great and the views from the river are lovely.

Current cravings?

Holiday!

Interview by Thuy An Bui