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Discount luxury e-tailer BrandAlley to launch a crowdsourced platform

Discount luxury e-tailer BrandAlley is launching a new virtual platform on its French and UK websites to promote and fund fledgling fashion talent. The new concept, called Le Lab, will debut in January 2011.

Taking a cue from the rising trend of crowdsourcing, Le Lab will allow BrandAlley Web users to vote on and decide which designs make it into production and become available for sale on the site.

A dozen designers will be chosen from prestigious fashion schools including l' Institut Français de la Mode, run by the French fashion industry's official governing body , to participate in the new project. Their sketches for a potential collection will be posted online at Le Lab. If the designs garner a thousand votes from Le Lab's online community, pieces from the collection will then be manufactured at BrandAlley's factories in China and Tunisia.

Online shoppers will have the option of pre-ordering pieces from the collection before units are actually produced. This way, BrandAlley's factories can ship the goods directly to the shopper and cut down costs associated with operating through a third party.

In addition to simply buying crowdsourced pieces on Le Lab, shoppers can even partake in the financing of a new collection. "Web users can contribute small sums of money as meager as 20 or 50 euros in order to become a pseudo-stockholder in the new collection," Dominique Fresnaye, a spokesperson for BrandAlley, told Relaxnews. Sales revenues will then be split amongst the parties who financially contributed to the apparel line.

"We want to become an important actor in the fashion industry by participating in the process of creation," Sven Lung, founder and chairman of BrandAlley, told the French retail and design industry weekly Journal du Textile. BrandAlley first tested the crowdsourcing concept on its UK site in 2008 when it sponsored a contest revolving around the Little Black Dress in which designers were asked to submit their sketches for modern LBDs. Twelve designs were selected by BrandAlley UK users and subsequently manufactured and sold via the site. The experiment was so well-received that BrandAlley decided to launch Le Lab, which will become a permanent rather than ephemeral aspect of its websites.

BrandAlley is a members-only shopping site that specialises in flash sales with designer brands like Chloé, Hugo Boss, Marc Jacobs, and Versace sold for up to 70 percent off. The French e-tailer was launched in 2005, followed by a UK version in 2008. Today, there are nearly two million registered users across its two sites.

Direct retailing and crowdsourcing, the idea behind BrandAlley's Le Lab, have the potential to radically alter what's available in the fashion landscape since it allows consumers to have a say in what is designed and produced. Big brands like Keds, Bloomingdale's and Nike have all experimented with the idea. Most recently, Derek Lam announced that he is launching a capsule collection to be sold exclusively on the online auction giant eBay in February 2011, in which web users will be able to vote and determine what goes into production.

Shop discount designer goods on BrandAlley's French site: http://www.brandalley.fr/

Shop discount designer goods on BrandAlley's UK site: http://www.brandalley.co.uk/