Why I’m Supporting a Millionaire Fashion Designer’s Crowdfunding Campaign

A freeze frame of Whitney from her Indiegogo video.

A freeze frame of Whitney from her Indiegogo video.

The latest fashion tech news making the rounds is about Whitney Port, of MTV’s The Hills and The City and a fashion designer worth $3.5 million, launching her very own Indiegogo campaign for her line, Whitney Eve. (Indiegogo is a crowdfunding site that allows a person to pitch a project idea and ask strangers for money in exchange for a “perk” decided by the project creator.) She wants $50,000 for her New York Fashion Week show on September 12th. Ignoring the logistical question that she’s cutting it close with just a little over a month to raise the necessary money, bloggers’ main concern have been: dude, she’s a millionaire and she wants a part of my mere $42k yearly salary? What sense does this make?

None.

But they’re overlooking some facts that do make sense for a 99-percenter to shell out money for Ms. Money Pants.

Whitney Port’s reason for crowdfunding isn’t completely self-serving:

This year, we would like to take unprecedented steps on our way to Mercedes Benz Fashion Week with the first fan-supported runway show on September 12, 2012, at Lincoln Center in New York, so I can share my art in a way that educates and involves my fans to be an integral part of the process. … I want to provide my fans with a behind-the-scenes experience on how a runway show of this caliber is designed, developed, and executed. 

So it says on her pitch. Sure, you can write this off as a marketing spin. But really? What else are you going to say when you want people to give you money for your own private for-profit project? “Gimme your money so I can make money. For myself. Thanks! You’re the best!”

We do have some hope fans will actually get “a behind-the-scenes experience.” The perk for giving Whitney $250 is a visit to Whitney Eve’s NYC headquarters during Fashion Week, which is sure to be exciting, chaotic, and awesome for a fashion fanatic. Or for $300, you get to attend a fitting for Fashion Week, which is when a design house tries their looks on their chosen models and alter the clothes as necessary. I can think of many other ways the Whitney Eve team can make this a more thorough behind-the-scenes experience but it doesn’t seem likely they’ll do any of it.

Whitney Port does not imply this is a charity by calling contributions “donations”:

“Feminist” blog, Jezebel, accuses the fashion designer of doing just this in its post “Why Is Whitney Port Asking For Money on the Internet?” If you actually read the Indiegogo pitch and watch the accompanying video, the word “donation” is never mentioned. Both Indiegogo and Whitney Port stick to the word “contribution.” These words are synonymous but “contribution” has always had less of a charitable connotation to me.

The rest of the copy and monologue in the video does not try to suggest this is a charity. She wants your money and is being honest about it.

You’re getting something in exchange.

Give a dollar, get a special thanks on the Whitney Eve Facebook page. Different things are given for increasing dollar amounts up $300 for the aforementioned visit to a fitting. The top perk was front-row tickets for the actual show at New York Fashion Week at $450 but those spots have all been claimed.

$300 is a bit rich for my blood but I have my eye on the $5 perk: a personal tweet from @whitneyeveport. I suspect this will be something like Follow Friday but for $5 bucks? I’ll take the cheap promo to get nearly 100,000 eyes on my newest project, Privae, a monthly pop-up shop.

No rule exists that the campaign creator needs to use his own money.

This is the whole point of crowdfunding. Get other people’s money so you have less risk of going bankrupt. Whitney Port has the advantage of being a celebrity, causing the number of people willing to give her money jump a few (hundred) thousands compared to a commoner. And you have to admit, Indiegogo or Kickstarter is a great promotional stunt. The story made it to Betabeat and The Daily Mail Online besides Jezebel and Mashable.

A page from Whitney Eve's Spring/Summer 2012 lookbook. The blazer is trimmed with a floral ruffle!

A page from Whitney Eve’s Spring/Summer 2012 lookbook. The blazer is trimmed with a floral ruffle!

Why would – or wouldn’t – you contribute to Whitney Port’s Indiegogo campaign? I consider it a bit like purchasing a service or a thing. If you go to Indiegogo or Kickstarter, you get perks for a set amount. One of Indiegogo’s featured fashion campaigns, Pooghe Clothing, gives you one of the shirts they’re raising money to make if you pledge $50. Basically, you’re paying $50 for a shirt. So I’m paying Whitney $5 for a tweet.

Are rich people excluded from using crowdfunding because they have money? The rules certainly don’t say so. If you don’t want your money going to a wealthy person’s crowdfunding project, check out Indiegogo’s Cause category that focuses only on charities and charitable causes.

Disclosure: Yeah, I’m a Whitney Port fan. I’ve loved her since The Hills.

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