In the age of e-commerce and business meetings held over Skype, the travel and lodging expenses of attending a trade show are increasingly difficult to justify. And If you're an emerging independent designer or the owner of a fashion boutique anywhere other than LA or NYC, scouting for new items and securing the right connections to get your product seen by the right people can be cost prohibitive.
Kassondra Dyebo, CEO and managing director of Boutique Fashion Brokers, believes there's a better way.
BFB is a "B2B membership-only community, created for up-and-coming fashion brands and boutiques to discover and do business with one another through their own private virtual showrooms."
Dyebo first conceived of the idea for BFB while working as a buyer in Montreal and attending trade shows herself. They're huge, tiring, overwhelming conventions that require much schlepping and stamina. And BFB, which launched in February of this year, is the trade show's efficient opposite.
With a low-fee membership, boutique buyers are able to browse BFB's online inventory, which is navigable by all manner of categories and sub-categories, and can be added to a multi-branded line-sheet, from which to request samples. While designers can use the platform to host their own virtual showroom, where they can showcase their collection(s), look-book(s), and press.
Two things that Dyebo believes make BFB a valuable resource are the premium placed on member privacy (buyers have no way of knowing with whom they are in direct competition, and designers only know who browses their wares once an item has been placed on a "Watch" list or a sample has been requested), and the user-friendly features in place to meet all their members' needs (BFB's system allows them to keep track of sales, orders, and shipments, as well as all pending and completed transactions).
Dyebo doesn't believe the day of the old-school trade show is over, only that—at least in some industries—there is an opportunity online to improve the entire experience. "What inspired me," she says, "was the fact that I couldn't travel to all the tradeshows and scout out all the talent around the world." Problem, solved.