Inspirare-An Incubator For a new generation of fashion

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

 "People's minds are not limited by competition; they are liberated by innovation." - Sean Peng, founder of Inspirare

Inspirare.  If you don't know about it, and you have any affinity for independent fashion labels, you should.  I had the pleasure of meeting Sean Peng, founder of Inspirare, at an Open House they hosted a couple of weeks back.  He struck me as outgoing, poised, professional, but above all, passionate.  It was inspiring to talk to Sean, to learn about the conception of Inspirare, the highs and lows of running a start-up, and what he thinks about San Francisco's re-emerging fashion community.  

I hope you enjoy our Q&A and if you want to purchase any of Inspirare's current designs, visit their online SHOP!

You have a background in business and finance so what was the catalyst in you abandoning that field for the crazy world of fashion?

My background was in business and finance.  I received my MBA from Texas A&M and subsequently obtained my CFA (Chartered Financial Analyst) and CPA (Certified Public Accountant) designations.  After the completion of my MBA, I went on to work mainly in the fields of marketing, sales and e-commerce.  Inspirare was born at that moment in my life when I was searching to harness my eight years of e-commerce experience into something more meaningful and creative.  I'm striving to build a platform that bridges the gap between talented independent designers and general consumers.  I felt that there were too many e-commerce flash sales and heavy discount deals going on that could serve as a detrimental purpose to emerging designers' business development.  Something that is lacking in this field: someone who can provide true value to the designer as well as the consumer.  Designers need a true sense business partner and consumers need one-of-a-kind designs and someone who truly values quality and aesthetic.  Because Inspirare's mission and concept are unique, I am grateful that a group of industry experts have joined our advisory board, and that we have a very strong core group of founding team members in the fashion industry.

Inspirare is an incubator for emerging designers who may not have the resources to market or produce their designs for mass consumerism.  Why do you feel so strongly about advocating for and promoting independent designers?

We looked at the market and studied the industry.  What we found is too many companies use e-commerce sites as a broker type of operation.  The broken point that I saw was that the majority of these sites do not want to take any significant responsibility or risk so they rely heavily on discounting existing merchandise.  They have formulated a consumer culture that is so discount driven that they are willing to forgo quality for low value "eye candy"  type of items.

Why did you choose San Francisco for Inspirare's headquarters?

San Francisco may not have a large number of designers, but it has the best supportive culture for entrepreneurship.  Here, ideas are embraced, and advice is offered.  People's minds are not limited by competition; they are liberated by innovation.  Inspirare has received overwhelming support from people in all fields.

Can you explain how an emerging designer, interested in your designer incubator program would apply, and if accepted, what specific role Inspirare would play in the development and marketing of these designs?

Emerging designers can apply to join Inspirare's designer program.  Once they are accepted, there are two ways in which they can work with Inspirare.

One: if they need funding, Inspirare will evaluate their designs and fund their design production in women's apparel.  In this model, designers get to share a generous royalty without any capital investment.

Two: if  designers can cover the production cost themselves, they have the option to feature and list their designs on Inspirare's shop to garner additional sales and marketing exposure.

Through its umbrella branding, Inspirare continuously invests in business development and marketing.  We focus on promoting and curating the designer's brand and product line, as well as bringing financial success to our designers.

What are some of the challenges you have experienced in trying to build your brand and reputation?  Some of the rewards?

The challenges we are currently facing are typical for any start up.  In the beginning, we couldn't move fast enough to bring consumers enough designs.  We are constantly revising our business processes to resolve that limitation.  In the coming weeks, Inspirare is going to introduce a series of new programs that will bring more exciting product offerings and services.  For example, consumers can participate in our pilot product development program and receive exclusive personalized services offered by Inspirare and its designers.  Stay tuned by visiting Inspirare's website.

What advice would you give fashionistas, like myself, who are trying to independently navigate the industry?

Going independently is an exciting journey.  It is rewarding and challenging.  I can't stress enough to form an alliance.  Know your strength, identify your needs, reach out to people who inspire you, seek advice from them and constantly brainstorm new ideas to improve your business.  "If there's a will, there's a way"-this saying has been inspiring me since I came to this country, over sixteen years ago.

 Lastly,  I would like to share with you with the Alexa Dress in black by designers LILA and june .  The Alexa Dress is modernly simplistic and can be worn almost anywhere. LILA and june are a part of Inspirare's burgeoning designer program.

DETAILS: Long-sleeve shirtdress features a mandarin collar, with a streamlined yolk and cuff. The opening is fashioned with hidden placket, with a box pleat back detail. The high-low hem creates a unique silhouette. Sleeve features a button and tab to fasten when rolled up. Unlined with side seam pockets.


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