In the mind of an eight-year-old child, drawing pictures of people and creating outfits for their Barbie dolls are fun activities. But, for Eleanor Turner, founder and CEO of The Big Favorite, these playtime activities became the training ground for how she is spending the rest of her life.
“Declaring my life’s work as a fashion designer at such a young age may seem unusual. But I’m here, following through on that dream,” shares Turner. “I owe a lot of my determination to my parents. They were the ones who encouraged me, telling me that there were no limits on my dreams.”
After receiving a degree in fashion design from the Savannah College of Art and Design, Turner put her design skills to the test. She has worked with top fashion brands including Tommy Hilfiger, Tory Burch, and J.Crew. Later, she decided to form her own business, co-founding the women’s work apparel brand Argent.
“Getting Argent off the ground and turning it into a multi-million-dollar women’s work apparel brand was an incredible experience. My business partner and I turned a traditionally boring and underserved segment into a platform that helps women not only dress appropriately and confidently for work, but also excel professionally,” reflects Turner. “At the same time, for me, personally, this experience revealed my own potential as an entrepreneur in this industry.”
A higher calling revealed
For years at Argent, Turner enjoyed the opportunity to dress trailblazing women like former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, U.S. Senator Kamala Harris, Gloria Steinem, Emily Weiss, and Amy Poehler. The brand even received coveted acclaim from The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Forbes, Glamour, WWD, and Vogue. But despite this level of success, her desire to resurrect a family fashion business began to pull her in a new direction.
“The Big Favorite was one of five traditional workwear brands once led by my great-grandfather. I began conceptualizing its revival in 2014 before co-founding Argent. After 11 years in fashion, the last four of them in direct-to-consumer, I’ve started working on The Big Favorite again this past January,” says Turner.
Reviving a legacy brand is a big goal on its own. However, Turner wanted to bring back The Big Favorite in a more meaningful way that could change how people consume fashion. She couldn’t ignore the fact that most supply chain models are focused on creating more stuff that inevitably ends up in the trash and, sometimes, in the ocean.
“Most fashion brands stop short when thinking about the planet. I believe The Big Favorite can set a new standard for sustainable practices in apparel by working toward vertically integrating end-to-end control from concept to end of life. With this model, we can profit from the products we produce multiple times,” explains Turner.
Great products for a new era of conscious consumers
Owning a supply chain with high sustainability goals, such as the use of recyclable materials, presents an entirely new set of challenges that most brands have yet to successfully tackle.
“Brands that are addressing the environmental impact and recyclability of their products struggle with scaling their direct and subscription-based business models,” observes Turner. “Our goal is to deliver a smarter product design that is affordably priced and easily recycled, conveniently available online and in stores, and speaks to consumers who are conscious about the condition of our planet.”
Running as a one-woman shop, Turner recognized that she couldn’t flip an entire fashion segment on her own. “I have been very fortunate to experience the power of collaborating with experienced industry leaders,” she says. “In my senior year in college, I won a scholarship from the YMA Fashion Scholarship Fund (FSF), which introduced me to industry insiders who later became my mentors. Then, last year, one of my mentors invited me to pursue the FSF Accelerator Grant to receive the financial backing I needed to bring my vision for The Big Favorite to life.”
The mission of the FSF Accelerator Grant program is to seed the early-stage startups of FSF alumni with mentorship from industry experts and an equity-free grant of $50,000. Each application is rated on five factors: idea viability, growth potential, development and vision, progress evaluation, and brand fit with the organization. The judging process consists of three rounds, the last being an in-person presentation to a panel of industry leaders, including FSF board members and a representative of SAP.
A breakthrough moment to raise the bar for fashion sustainability
Luckily, Turner took up the offer to apply for accelerator grant and was named a 2019 winner.
According to Rick Barber, global account director at SAP, “At SAP, we are honored to help the fashion industry move forward with meaningful creativity, ingenuity, innovation. Eleanor’s plans for using 100% recycled material is certainly part of that legacy as she sets out to disrupt a highly competitive segment. This initiative not only addresses the demand for environmentally sustainable products, but also the global initiatives that will undoubtedly impact the entire world.”
Turner plans to allocate the immediate funds from the grant toward website upgrades, including optimizing for mobile, and other back-end upgrades. Plus, she will begin protecting key intellectual property and continue work on innovating and developing sustainable textiles. She will also create supporting content for digital advertising and prepare for her capital raise in September.
“The grant money is definitely a great opportunity to help me realize my calling to revive The Big Favorite. But more importantly, the FSF Accelerator Grant provides the relationships, connections, advice, and recognition that are critical to any brand’s success,” concludes Turner. “Having that support is what makes this grant a priceless honor.”
Want to learn more how industry professionals are driving results with people, process, and technology? Join us on October 2–3, 2019, at the Consumer Industries Forum.