How did the Business of Retail development programme between the Bicester Village Shopping Collection and the British Fashion Council (BFC) come about?
We have a long history of supporting British talent and fashion’s rising stars. A decade ago we created a vehicle, the British Designers Collective, to do just this. Its success was then localised and rolled out across our other Villages; La Roca Village near Barcelona, Kildare Village near Dublin, Fidenza Village near Milan, as well as Suzhou Village and Shanghai Village in China. These platforms provide up-and-coming designers with the opportunity to showcase their work alongside established international brands and to be discovered by a new international customer; it is an initiative that has gone from strength to strength.
Last year, the Bicester Village Shopping Collection established a 12-month business mentorship programme for the five finalists of the Green Carpet Fashion Awards, in partnership with Camera Nazionale della Moda Italiana and EcoAge, supporting the best new talents dedicated to the ethos of sustainability, and we are doing the same again this year.
Against this background, the Business of Retail development programme was a natural progression for us. We are very excited about being able to extend our experience in business mentoring to include British designers and we are delighted to be able to do so with the British Fashion Council.
What can visitors expect to find at the pop-up?
Our guests will be able to discover collections by British designers. There are emerging labels, such as Emilia Wickstead, Eudon Choi, Sharon Wauchob, Marques’Almeida, Mother of Pearl, Palmer Harding, Perfect Moment, Teija, Peter Pilotto and Teatum Jones (the latter was a finalist at the Green Carpet Fashion Awards), alongside the more established names of Christopher Kane, Roksanda, Holly Fulton and Nicholas Kirkwood. This is a unique collective of exciting British fashion talent – all under one roof.
The pop-up is just one facet of the Bicester Village Shopping Collection’s new mentorship programme in partnership with the BFC. What does the programme entail?
This programme is unique in the fact that it is tailored specifically to meet the business needs of each participating designer, through business mentorship and commercial opportunity, providing a blend of individualised support over a two-year period.
It provides everything from experienced one-on-one business mentorship to more specific deep-dive technical help on subjects including retail and distribution, supply chain management, consumer insight, brand building and shopping tourism marketing. We will be lending our business expertise through our extensive international network: our 1,300 person-strong talent pool comprises everything from luxury brand merchants to visual merchandise veterans, hospitality and destination marketing experts, PR and brand building specialists.
The BFC Designer Pop-up opens up a new retail landscape and a new customer, providing designers with free commercial exposure for 11 days each year.
What is your vision for this programme?
The fashion industry in the UK is incredibly buoyant. Last year alone, the British fashion industry contributed £32.3 billion to the UK GDP, supporting 890,000 UK jobs, with fashion being almost as large as the financial sector.
The design talent here in the UK is extraordinary, but retail is changing on a dime and designers today need to achieve commercial success quickly in order to build a sustainable and resilient business – this is what the Business of Retail development programme aims to do. We are proud to champion these exciting British designers and to play our part to support the BFC in the pursuit of driving the fashion economy.
Why is it so important to support emerging talent with initiatives like this?
Our mentorship initiative is about teaching emerging designers how to balance the yin and the yang. Young, talented designers often have no choice but to run their business at the same time as designing. This is where they can often run into trouble, because they enter into a venture capital deal without understanding the consequences that such a deal could lead to. Will their name be protected? Are they going to end up giving up control of their brand? Where and how will the brand be distributed? These are just a few of the questions that young designers need to ask themselves.
Each of the designers we are mentoring will have different questions to address; those with more experience will have other needs. Our mentoring programme will be tailored to each of the designer’s specific requirements; we want them all to grow their business in a way that is sustainable for them in the long-term.
The pop-up is centred on alumni from the BFC’s initiatives and charities, including the BFC/Vogue Designer Fashion Fund and the BFC Fashion Trust, together with a selection of established British brands. In your opinion, what makes these British designers so unique?
The designers that we will work with through this partnership are each at a critical stage in the development of their businesses. By working with the BFC to talent spot exceptional creativity, we will nurture these talents as they take the crucial steps to establish their brands on a global stage. It is about timing, harnessing and fulfilling creative potential.
Why is Bicester Village the perfect platform for these BFC designers?
In 2018 Bicester Village will welcome seven million guests who come from literally all corners of the world. Around 60% of our guests are tourists, while more than one third of sales are generated by visitors from outside the EU. Our guests are worldly and know their brands, but they are motivated to experience authentic local culture and design, and to discover something new. Many are tourists, after all, here to soak up British culture, and the BFC Designers pop-up offers an opportunity to do precisely this. It offers our guests the opportunity to experience some of the most exciting names in British fashion. While, conversely, the designers themselves have a captive, engaged audience, made up of distinguished British, European and international customers who are here to enjoy a memorable day out – it is a marriage made in heaven.
In an age of e-commerce, why do bricks-and-mortar shopping experiences like the Bicester Village Shopping Collection continue to be relevant?
While the future of retail may be digital, the future for brands is the physical shopping experience. This is how brands communicate their values and identity, and how, ultimately, they generate loyalty – through physical engagement, creating emotion and memories.
Online experiences cannot satisfy the five senses – touch, taste, sight, smell and sound – which is what we do: we are a physical brand for the digital age. What we offer is fundamentally different to online retailing: we are a ‘day out’, not a ‘mouse click’.
The Bicester Village Shopping Collection has evolved into a cultural platform, where shopping becomes more than a simple transaction: it is a journey of discovery. We cater to guests’ desire by fusing fashion, art, local culture and hospitality interspersed with exciting pop-ups. We are in the business of experience curation.
What’s the key to creating a successful retail environment?
The key is to be great hosts and to never stand still: retail is a game of constant reinvention. To address this, we agonise over the tiniest detail. From the moment our guests plan their journey through our websites or our Village apps to their experience in the Village, through to their departure, there are multiple touch points where, as the host, you can either delight or disappoint. Everything we do – from hands-free shopping to valet parking – is done with our hospitality binoculars on, so our guests have a seamless and carefree day.
What are your three favourite pieces in the pop-up?
This is an impossible question to answer – for me, the thrill will be in the discovery!