On Wednesday 24th June 2016 I was invited to attend Buckingham Palace for the investiture of my MBE, awarded for services to the fashion industry.
On what proved to be a tumultuous week, I had the privilege of being presented the MBE medal by the The Princess Royal, and was impressed on the amount of time Princess Anne spent talking to each recipient. It was also gratifying to meet so many inspirational people, and in particular see the large cohort of women, all of whom had devoted a large part of their lives to helping others.
Drawing on my background of running my own fashion label and advising other high end designers, I set up Fashion Angel with the remit of offering mentoring, business support and access to funding, to try and challenge the high failure rate of fashion businesses. I felt it was important to help creative entrepreneurs develop entrepreneurial and business skills, so they could get a better understanding of all aspects of running a business and have a better chance of accessing finance.
The fashion sector has its own unique challenges, and I believe it’s difficult to give meaningful support unless you have the relevant industry experience. In addition, most fashion brands are small enterprises, so don’t have a wide pool of skills and experience within the business. Mentoring can help plug this gap, as well as give impartial feedback, practical guidance and access to contacts.
It can be quite lonely too, so part of the plan was to offer a rolling programme of workshops and networking events so fashion designers can not only learn from industry experts, but can share information with their peers and forge collaborations.
Shortly after I set up Fashion Angel, we became a delivery partner for the government backed Start Up Loan scheme. This allowed us to not only assist start-ups access the loan, but also help to ensure they have a viable business model via the free mentoring that comes as part of the support package.
For me the MBE is in recognition of a team effort, and the success of Fashion Angel wouldn’t have been possible, without the other Fashion Angel mentors who have given their time and the benefit of their experience (often over and above the call of duty) to 100’s of fashion entrepreneurs.
I am very proud of what we have achieved to date, and despite the difficulties we are going to no doubt face with the recent Brexit decision, look forward to expanding our reach and continuing to support as many fashion designers and entrepreneurs as we can.
By Alison Lewy MBE
Fashion Angel founder and author of Design Create Sell – a guide to starting and running a successful fashion business – available to buy here.