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BFC and Venrex launch investment fund

By Danielle Wightman-Stone

2 Feb 2022

Business

Image: BFC; Stephanie Phair

The British Fashion Council (BFC) is teaming up with London-based venture capital firm Venrex to launch an investment fund to support the fashion sector, while also diversifying its revenue streams to reinvest in fashion education and talent programmes.

The Venrex BFC Fashion I fund will enable a "vibrant business ecosystem in the fashion sector," explains the BFC in a statement, by providing a broad range of businesses with access to finance for seed, early-stage, or growth stage.

The new fund follows an Investors Roundtable co-hosted by the BFC and Sian Westerman, BFC non-executive director, in 2019, which found that while there are multiple funding models for different types of businesses and that there are many opportunities to develop businesses who are at the intersection of creativity, innovation and commerce, that “highly creative businesses should not necessarily be pushed to high growth but can benefit from talent identification schemes and programmes”.

The BFC and Venrex have not disclosed how much money is in the investment pot, just that businesses within the BFC network and beyond will be able to apply for investment. The BFC will act as a facilitator, introducing brands to Venrex, and in return receive fees and a portion of the carry, which as a not-for-profit organisation will be reinvested in fashion education and talent programmes.

Stephanie Phair, BFC chair, said in a statement: “As the BFC we recognise that we have the ability to help enable a vibrant ecosystem supporting businesses at the intersection of creativity, innovation and commerce.

“The fashion industry landscape is drastically changing and as businesses look towards a sustainable future, there is a real opportunity for the BFC to support a pool of talent with different and disruptive business models in partnership with a Fund with a unique understanding of this complex industry.

"This is a Fund with a purpose – the intention is to reinvest part of the carry back into the brilliant pipeline of future talent this country is known for.”

British Fashion Council creates investment fund with Venrex

The Venrex BFC Fashion I fund has already invested in three companies: Intimately, Vollebak and Digital Village.

Intimately is an adaptive intimates brand for disabled women that believes everyone deserves to feel confident in stylish intimates and has redesigned bras, underwear, and sleepwear with the newest fastening technology to make sure disabled women can easily get dressed.

Vollebak is a clothing brand that uses science and technology to tackle climate change and sustainability. It has created pieces such as the Solar Charged Jacket that stores and re-emits sunlight, T-shirts that turn into worm food and hoodies designed to outlive the owner.

They have also invested in Digital Village MMO Metaverse, which allows people to create in Web3 and integrate their digital assets and lifestyles seamlessly and ethically into its own metaverse. Digital Village states it aims to become a “comprehensive and diverse ecosystem” that will enable members to “showcase, wear, use, and exchange their digital assets with their communities”.

Sian Westerman, BFC non-executive director, added: “The Venrex BFC Fashion I recognises the importance for fashion start-ups who are at the intersection of creativity, innovation and commerce to have access to capital and commercial expertise as well as much-needed support to allow their sustainable growth, build upon creative talent and bring to bear commercial expertise.

"It’s fantastic that the fund will align with the BFC’s core mission to support talent in creating responsible creative businesses, with the goal to expand even more an already thriving fashion ecosystem.”

Venrex BFC Fashion I invests in Intimately, Vollebak and Digital Village

Venrex, which backs creative founders to launch and build innovative businesses, has previously invested in fashion and beauty brands including Orlebar Brown, Me + Em and Charlotte Tilbury, as well as technology and marketplace businesses such as Lyst and Knitregen.

Commenting on the Venrex BFC Fashion I investment fund, Venrex partner Mark Esiri, said: “We are thrilled to be working with the BFC on this initiative to partner with what we hope can be some of the UK’s highest growth fashion-related businesses.

“While not all fashion start-ups will suit Venture Capital’s high growth business models, we feel that this fund will complement the already significant leadership role that the BFC plays in a hugely impactful UK industry. This is an opportunity for investors to shape the brands of the future and leaders of tomorrow.”